Wednesday, May 29

That 11th Hour...

Our deadline for submitting the Troop's cancellation for Camp came at noon on Monday. We had no one to fill in. We needed to cancel. Of course, nobody wrote the letter, and normally, I'd be torqued, except that that evening we had friends over. I heard one of the kids (:snort: Kid - he's 18, an Eagle Scout, works his tail off, and is very responsible - but in my head, he's a "kid", I know, I'm getting old and weird) -- anyway, heard him say that he had to leave on X date to get some time in visiting family and friends before Staff had to report at Camp SomethingOrOther. Hmmm...

So... when is Camp SomethingOrOther?

It's the week after yours. (I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically how it played out.)

Would you like an all expenses paid trip to the lovely mountains of Camp TheOneWeGoTo, *and* get to be A Hero for saving Camp? :eyebrow waggle: (Not paraphrasing. I was desperate and gave him the full pitch.)

He laughed at me and said yes. (He really did laugh. I've mentioned he's a great ki-- erm, guy. But also, he said YES!)

So, WOOHOO! Once again, that Blessed 11th Hour came through. We now have two adults for camp and meet all the requirements of the BSA.

That means we should probably consider packing sometime this week...

And, I think I overbought on groceries. The Littles could live for a month on what it takes to feed the Bigs for a couple of days. The last time the Bigs were gone, I cooked one meal and the three of us ate off it for the whole weekend.

But, CAMP! Yay!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, May 27

Gathering for a Pounce

Many (most? all? I should look that up) animals gather themselves together before they pounce. I'm pretty sure this is a mental phenomenon, also. (Though I haven't researched it, because honestly, it's just a picture in my head of how I feel before we have to tackle something big. So it could just be us.)

Anyway, we've had a busy week or so, and neither of us gathered for it, so it's been more of a swatting than a pouncing. Z ran out of steam on the soffits as he got farther around the back of the house and started running into rotted wood on the frame. And more brick work (not our favorite thing to do, regardless). It's been a week of sawzall work and framing, mortar and priming. It'll be good, in the end, and solid. But... nasty things fall out of the eaves when you start sawing on them. *gag*

Our Scout Troop had a weird confluence of TDY assignments for all our adults, and we found ourselves two weeks out from camp with only one Adult leader able to go. It's been a week with a flurry of emails, brainstorming, and stress. We were hoping to get information on a provisional troop arrangement at the camp, or perhaps to have the boys and our one adult appended to another troop for the week, but the camp office isn't open yet, the lady we generally deal with is on vacation, and we're having a devil of a time making headway. I could to go, if we could come up with a way to hide three bouncy Littles in camp for a week. So far, no brilliant ideas on that front. So it looks like the boys may miss scout camp this year.

Our Webelos built bat boxes. That was a "Z to the rescue" kind of thing. He's incredible with the kids - they learn so much from him, and they have fun doing it. Once the cedar dries out a bit, and they don't weigh so much, the boys will finish them out and get them hung. Based on the volume of mosquitoes we have this year, I'm betting we'll have the fattest bats in the state, and plenty of them.

I lost my glasses at some point last week. The Suburban was spotless. The house was immaculate. Still no glasses. Then I realized we hadn't tackled the Baby Dragon Lair. We waded through the paper treasure and bead bullion and other valuables in the hoard. I almost didn't do it. It's daunting for a non-crafty person to delve into an artist's space. Especially when she's small and has a minion. And, dragons. But I'm glad I did. The glasses were there, on a pony. Under some homemade pillows (paper, cotton balls, and staples). I also found my stapler.

On a related note, as much as I want to do the ceiling next, that child needs a non-carpeted room to work in. I'm thinking gunite. If you have ideas, toss them up on Pinterest. I'll be researching next week.

And graduations! We've had three beautiful, amazing young people in our lives who graduated from high school this week. Every one of them is the kind of person you can't wait to turn loose on the world: kind, hard working, generous, thoughtful, upright young people. I know their paths won't always be easy, but we are so very proud of them and excited for them to get out there and share themselves with the world. When people complain about "kids these days", I want to share these kids with them, so they'll know what to look for. They're there. And they're fantastic!

Kiss those babies, no matter how big!

Wednesday, May 22

They did it.

The Bigs: 25 mile route on the Tour d'Arsenal. They were the youngest riders on that loop, and they didn't come in last. (That doesn't really matter, as this wasn't a race, and there were people of all fitness levels and cycling experience on the ride. But it did feel kind of good for young men testing their mettle.) They were all a bit shocked and awed (in a good way) when they got buzzed by a group of septuagenarians about the mid-way point in the ride, though. I guess it was pretty impressive and left quite an impressions on four young men, sucking wind up a hill, when the whirr-whirr-whirr of fast bikes comes up from behind and whoosh~~~ there they go. Good stuff.

Jacob: 18 miles. The youngest rider in the Tour. (The next two youngest being the Bigs.) It didn't even dawn on me that kids wouldn't do it. Didn't dawn on Jacob, either, until he ran out of steam at about the 15 mile mark. He'd done everything right, really - he was well-rested going into it, ate well before hand, and was staying hydrated. But it was hot-hot-hot and sticky beyond belief, and I think that got inside his head and made him question everything from the origin of the universe to why we didn't hire a rickshaw and take a scenic drive. We slowed our pace, I asked a few questions and then just listened as he talked his way out of his own head. He took a few deep breaths, and you could just see this kid center himself and refocus on his goal. It was amazing, and humbling, and uplifting all at once. The other riders were fantastic and so very encouraging with a kind word and a cheer of encouragement as they passed.

One lady, in particular, offered to share an energy drink packet she'd brought. I checked the label and it didn't have anything we'd find objectionable in it, so I said yes. By that time, Jacob had decided he could see this through and enjoy it, but the psychological boost that gave him -- both the generous gesture and the idea that he was getting a beneficial drink -- he flew the last few miles and could have happily gone another round if only it had been under 90 degrees. And burritos. We had burritos in the car for the riders. He said he felt great when it was over. "Probably the hardest thing I've ever done, but it felt good." I... have no idea where he gets it, but am so glad he's got it!

James wrecked near the start of the ride. Poor kid - he went over the handlebar over the weekend, too. Anyway, best I can make out from their stories, he and John needed to veer around an obstacle, but someone came up on James' right so he had to veer back left and they (James and John) collided. They must be pretty proficient at bike repair and first aid, though, because they got it fixed, treated their wounds, and were back on the trail before Jacob and I could catch up. We only heard about it later. There were a couple of more gnarly wrecks later in the ride, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured (and we weren't a part of those).

For Z and I, it was a great experience. Of course, you can tell we're not hard-core cyclists. When they start down a slope, they lean on the handlebars and streamline their forms. It's serious business. When we hit the crest of a hill and start back down, we put our heads up and our elbows out to catch some air. If you listen really closely, you might be able to make out a faint, "Weee!" I hope we're still doing that together 40 years from now, wherever we are. And that the kids will still want to come with us.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, May 21

While I wait for the phone to finish backing up,

I watched YouTube videos on how to fix a laggy phone.

I read a couple of articles on the dangers of sleep deprivation.

I stared into space for a little bit. (Kind of confirmed some of what I'd just read. Weird.)

Then it hit me, "Hey! Nobody's up! I could blog!"

Which is not to say that I'm blogging anything I don't want them to read. It's just that I'm not good at holding multiple thoughts coherently in my head. Funny, you'd think I'd be better at that by now. That, and getting to bed at a decent time. But, no. And no. Ah, well.

Tomorrow (today) we ride the Tour d'Arsenal. (There will be napping before hand, seeing as it's already after two in the morning.) It's a neat cycling tour of the Arsenal that goes through some of the older, more historic parts of the area. We've pretty much milked the liability waiver for all it's worth. (The boys, in particular, thinks it's hilarious that I won't let them sky dive, but have no problem sending them into something that requires I acknowledge in writing that they could DIE in the process. Of course, they could die doing anything; I'm just acknowledging that if they die doing this, it's their own fault and my responsibility. Plus, if your bike malfunctions, you get road rash. Order of magnitude in the different probable outcomes.) But we're stoked. It'll be fun.

We rode the Alabama section of the Natchez Trace this past weekend. We didn't have logistical support for the Littles, so Z and I split up the trek. I rode the first portion with the boys, with Jase in the child seat on my bike. He's a fun cycling buddy. I'm going to be a little sad when he's too big to ride along like that. We stopped at a ferry and fished for a bit, then Z took Em on the trail-a-bike and rode with the boys for what turned out to be the entirely uphill portion of the trail. Didn't see that coming. He's so good-natured, though. Jacob and I drove past them on our way out of the park - going up this steep, steep incline - Em was standing on the pedals of the trail-a-bike, just pumping her legs as hard as she could to help get them up the hill. Of course, she was whipping that thing side to side and you could see the back end of Z's bike flailing left and right. It probably felt like trying to climb a mountain with monsters shaking him by the ankles. Yet as we drove past, Jacob and Jase waved and cheered them on, and Z had a smile and a wave for the boys.

Jacob rode 17.1 miles of the trail on a 20" bike. Holy cow, that kid is good-natured... and wiry! He didn't complain at all! Even when he collapsed in the grass and announced that he felt like that was a pretty good ride and he was done, thanks - still, no whining. Z and I were exhausted just watching him. (Well, and because we're old and out of shape.) But he loves to ride with his brothers, and they love to have him along, so we bought him a bigger bike this weekend. They've already taken him on an inaugural ride to the square and to Gina's for a soda. He was all smiles as he explained that he's just as tired, but he goes a LOT faster.  He can hardly wait to do this next ride with the new wheels!

It has rained and rained and rained. When it's not raining, we're outside working on the house or the meadows. Then it rains and we come back in and watch it rain. As quickly as the grass and poison ivy are growing, I'm rather thankful we don't have kudzu. We'd have to hack a path to the car and defoliate the drive just to get to town. It's crazy. We've lived here eight years, and still I'm awed every Spring by how quickly things grow here. It's so green and lush and just beautiful.

We're about three days away from kicking into full-on Summer Schedule. Math, Foreign Language, Reading. Call it a day. It's just too beautiful to stay inside. We'll get down to business in August, when it's not so beautiful anymore. Right now, though, it's time to be outside, digging in the garden, building things in the meadow, and playing in the creek.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, May 10

And the rain came down...

And down, and down, and down.

The boys had traded their planned backpacking trip earlier this month for a make-up trip to Tannehill Iron Works. It's a favorite, and we missed our normal Fall trip because nearly everyone had conflicting obligations that week, so we were all looking forward to this. There was rain in the forecast, but all the Scout leaders heard that and thought, "Oh yeah, camping in the rain with a good book..." Even the boys weren't daunted. Then the thunderstorms decided to show up, so we had to punt to the following weekend.

Normally, in Alabama, if you can't go this weekend, you can go the next weekend. Not this time. The storms were bigger the following weekend. And the next! Not wanting to end up on national news with the lead-in, "A Scout from Alabama was struck by lightning/washed away in a flash flood/lost in a mud bog..." we ended up scrapping the trip. Now everbody's antsy to get out and get some woods time. It's like cabin fever, in that it makes everyone irritable and sensitive. It was the right call, but dang...

So, we've been piddling around here between downpours. The mower slipped a belt, and we fixed it. We've lost the Kindle, so the house is absolutely spectacular from the thorough clean-as-you-look approach. The creek flooded and we checked out all the neat animals that seek the high ground - it's amazing how many things live in the beautiful meadow!

The deck may never get stained. If we build another balcony while we still live in the South, I'm going to stain all the wood before we put it up. When it warms up enough to stain, the pollen comes. When the pollen stops, the oak fuzzies come. When the oak fuzzies stop, the rain comes. When the rain stops, the temps drop too low to stain. With this cycle, we might have a week sometime in November when there's nothing falling from the sky and the wood dries out enough to stain it.

Jacob's Den slipped out for a City Walk earlier this week. It was a gorgeous day for it (probably should have stayed home and stained the deck...) We started our walking tour of the historic downtown area with the last stop on the tour -- in part because it's such an important structure in the town's history, and in part because we hoped to end up at the Farmers' Market instead of back on the same end of town. Well, as we walked around the building, looking at bullets still lodged in the walls, and the mortar holes in the columns, the bank door opened and Judge Breeland (who leads the Citizenship course the boys took last Spring) stepped out to invite us in for an official tour of the Old State Bank building! What a treat! Our one-hour city walk turned into a fantastic, two-hour, hands-on tour of one of the most amazing buildings I've been privileged to explore. Everyone who takes a tour appreciates having a guide who loves his subject and knows it well enough to make it come alive. Judge Breeland is just that kind of guide.

The deck can wait. I'm glad we didn't miss out on that!

Monday, May 6

Through Fresh Eyes

It's easy to look at our own lives and see all the things that need doing, all the things that need repair, all the things that are lacking. It's easy to take for granted the things that work just the way they're supposed to, to forget the hard work that's gone into setting up our lives, and the beauty in the natural function of life.

So when our company arrived yesterday morning for a day of shooting and eating and visiting, and I was only barely dressed, the house wasn't company ready, and we hadn't prepared food, I kind of wanted to curl up and die in the corner behind the Hoosier. (They were invited. Z just has a Jimmy Buffet Gene that makes communicating actual time values to me a bit tricky.)

All I saw was a group of strangers standing in the foyer, trapped by the My Little Pony Picnic Barricade. My instinct was to invite them in, but how do you make it sound inviting as you request someone navigate past the leaning tower of books, around the marker mine field, toward the kitchen... the one I don't really clean unless company *is* coming, because it's always in use? Well, no, I take that back. My instinct was to hide, but that proved logistically impossible, so I went with Plan B.

Plan B: punt. Maybe you laugh a little nervously. You announce there is coffee, and wonder if it's too early for beer. You do a quick mental check to see if you've at least got on a bra, then take a deep breath and acknowledge that if they can walk in on this and still have a good day, they're probably Really Good People.

And they were. We had a wonderful time. They didn't freak out over the child-debris. They visited and chatted and laughed and shared stories. They are absolutely delightful. We did what we do -- we fed them, and then fed them again, and then made kettle corn and sent them home with a big bag of it. We made a lot of coffee and tea and wandered here and there. MeWa came out after a few hours and added to the fun. Jacob took them about to show them his favorite things and places. We just had a good, old-fashioned day with friends. (I did send James back to run a brush in the toilet bowl... some things, you just don't want to punt.)

And when they left, we were sad to see them go. Their daughters made plans to come back over Thanksgiving break to learn to make tamales. The parents will be back for cookouts and bon fires over the Summer. The best compliment we received that day? "We just feel so welcome."

*whew* Nailed it. The key? Pick Really Great People to invite over! They'll help you see your world and your home through fresh eyes, and will remind you about the things that truly matter. And relax. You've got a neat life, and you don't want to miss out on fantastic people because you can't see through the mess to enjoy them. At least, I don't. I'm thankful for the reminder.

Kiss those babies!