Tuesday, February 25

Huh. That went well.

Oh, look, right after I got all excited about getting to bed early on a regular basis, here I am, up at the witching hour. Oops. The Bigs and I got in late tonight, the bed was full of Littles, and I caved to the siren song of solitude. Tomorrow's going to bring some stout natural consequences. But while I'm up...

The boys attended a Scout meeting tonight with this other Troop. It was... whoa. The difference in this meeting from what we've known as Scouting was astounding (and I'll probably spend the next month kicking myself for not moving them over there four years ago). Wow. They went just to see what they thought, and all three came to me after the meeting and OK'd putting in their memberships. They're all in. They're each in different Patrols - I think Jacob was a little unsure about that, but his brothers assured him that it'll be okay, and that they're still *right there* if he does need them. They reminded him that they were in different Patrols at NYLT, too. 

Pancake breakfast fundraiser at Applebee's in Decatur this Saturday, if anyone is feeling generously inclined toward donating to the boys' efforts to pay for Scout Camp this year! (I did the math on the drive home for three boys, plus getting Jacob geared up, and got just a wee bit queasy thinking about that part, but it'll come together. And for a positive experience, it will be worth it a thousand times over.)

Watched a new show in the quiet time tonight: Zen. It's a BBC America production. Rufus Sewell plays a character who is Not A Villain, which he does very well. The show is spectacular, but since I remember him mostly from his villain roles, I spent most of the first episode waiting for him to bring out the Count Adhemar or Adam the Vampire. He doesn't, and the end result is a delightful police show, as far as I've watched.

School went so well today. I kind of wish we could do a once a week plan and call it good. Everyone is so energetic and enthusiastic (and focused) about one day a week...

Oh, and with the absolutely beautiful weather we've had, today we had lunch on the balcony. It was fantastic, aside from the blinding light. Even with sunglasses on, we ended up shoveling the last bites in as we walked toward the door. I think the general consensus was that we'll try again for breakfast and hold off on eating lunch out there until there's some foliage to help buffer the glare.

Overall, as the Littles would say, "it was a pretty good day".

Kiss those babies!
~ Dy

Monday, February 24

The changes we've made

I'd mentioned before that we'd made some changes recently. Sometimes, we make changes and the effect is negligible. Sometimes there are stellar improvements in areas that needed it. (Not often, but sometimes.) And sometimes, we have to leap back like kittens confronted with something that moves unexpectedly. You just never know how a change will pan out, and I've been holding my breath for quite a while, now. But we're starting to see some good shifts, and I think we're headed in a good direction.

I've been getting up at five in the morning so I can work in peace before the day begins. This is good, and it's been great, but there was a lot of resistance to it (on my part, even though it was my idea). The hardest part was going to bed earlier and giving up my Alone Time. I mean, I guess technically if I'm in bed, asleep, that's about as Alone as it gets. But it's not the same as having time to watch (in peace) something nobody else in the house will watch without running commentary, or time to read larger chunks of meaty books without someone sticking a Lego creation in your face without warning. After getting ample rest for the past month and a half, though, I have to admit (somewhat grudgingly) that it's worth it. So, there's that. Nobody else is on board, yet, and that's actually okay, because if they start getting up at five, too, then there goes the whole plan.

We had our second game day for the teens last week. It was a wonderful crowd, and a delightful time. The whole thing played out differently than I'd expected it to, and that was okay. Instead of small, interest-oriented groups playing different games around the house, all the teens piled in around a table meant for half the number of bodies and played a game meant for up to four kids. Makes sense: they wanted to be together. They're creative and inclusive. Win-win. We (moms) hightailed it to the balcony, enjoying the sun and the company. We got a little loud at one point and the kids closed the balcony door on us. That made us laugh harder. Next thing you know, they'll be telling us to turn down the music and get a haircut. We probably won't listen then, either. I really enjoy the kids, and their moms. They're a blessing for which I am incredibly grateful.

I was reading yesterday, about homeschool burnout and how to recapture the joy. (It is February, you know.) James read over my shoulder, and said, "We do a lot of that normally, Mom." (Ohhh! He noticed! I decided to push for more insight.)

"So, are you enjoying your education?"

"Not really." (Should have left well enough alone, huh?) Then he added, "But I do acknowledge that it could be much worse. So I guess I'm happy."

(I'll... take it?)

John went camping with a Scout Troop that some of his friends belong to. It was a one night backpacking trip. It was very (very) hard for me to be okay with just letting him go after past experiences. But we knew many of the boys, and several of the adults, and as appealing as it may seem, they can't just live in hamster balls in the lower meadow. (Or that's what I keep saying. I may re-think that one if I find a hamster ball large enough.) Anyway, he packed and geared up two days early, without any prodding or help. He was Ready. His friends picked him up at six o'clock on Saturday morning, and we retrieved him Sunday after church. Before he'd leaped out of the truck, he'd already made plans to attend the Troop's next meeting, got details on the next outing, had info for James about new computer related badges and a thumbs up for JakeRabbit to go, too. He said the whole thing was fantastic, and he's ready to go again. Good thing we kept all our records and uniforms.

The playset has been reassembled to withstand the child equivalent of an F-4 tornado. Even hitting "hyperdrive" mode on one of the swings (touching chain to wood and getting your head above the top beam) doesn't lift a corner or cause any queasy leaning of the structure. We may have missed the window to stain it before the next rain, but we're definitely making progress. Yesterday, Z burned the leaves in the back yard, hopefully destroying a number of tick habitats and tick families.

Of all the people who have been outside so far this year, raking, climbing, working, playing, roaming, frolicking, and just hanging out, guess who got the first tick of the season? Yep, the one who stays indoors cleaning, reading, and working. What's up with that? Time to put garlic back into the rotation.

Youth group has been a huge hit.The boys are all comfortable there. They enjoy going, and have found their strides with the new groups of people.

Our small group is neat. I appreciate that others take the time to invest in a smaller, more intimate setting, to allow people to get to know each other better.

There were more changes, but I've forgotten what... 

That happens more often than I'd like to admit.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, February 18

A Playset

We've wanted to build a tree house for ages. But when you're working with various personalities, and time demands, projects don't always get off the ground. Or into the tree. James and John are no longer interested in having one, and Z and I both got a little panicky last month about never having a tree house for the children!

Craigslist to the rescue! Sort of. We found a standard play set. The ad said it was "gently used", and the price was good. It was a bit of a drive, but we called it a Date and justified the trip.The whole thing turned out to be a reminder that using Craigslist can be a cautionary tale. Ask for more detailed pictures and measurements before you make a drive to pick something up. We knew this, and yet... well, I guess we just needed the excuse to spend some time in the car, alone.

"Gently used" included a two foot wide hole in the middle of the slide, and a good bit of rot on the wood that made contact with the ground. That actually made us laugh, and laughter is good for the soul. The "paid $1100 new" set can actually be purchased brand new today for $600 at Wal-Mart. I know they're fond of price droppers, but I'm guessing that's... not it.

So we offered her what we were willing to pay for it, and she acknowledged that she was probably making out pretty well, all things considered. We dismantled it and brought it home. Yesterday, Z and the kids spent the day putting on better quality wood and reinforcing the frame. They cleared a spot in the back yard, and the Littles could not be more excited if we'd built an actual tree house. So, that's good. We also bought some stain to protect the pieces that are still solid, and will have it cleaned up in no time.

We think we can replace the broken slide with sheet metal, using the existing frame. That'll be less static-inducing, and a little faster. Also, less likely to give way while in use, because regardless of one's definition of gentle use, I doubt we'll fall into that category. In the end, the cautionary reminder was good, but everyone is happy with the results.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, February 16

The Week in Review

We had Snow Week!

 Not just a day, but four days of snow and fun, cold fingers, wet pants, snowball fights and gimpy snowmen. It was wild, and wonderful!

Then Friday was so beautiful we were still able to get out and hike with friends! (The hike also involved cold fingers, wet pants, and a fairly awesome 11th Doctor snowman. But it was warm enough that we only needed light jackets and t-shirts. Double bonus, if you ask me.)

This coming week of school is going to be... hard. We're all sort of girding and trying to find a way to not cringe when we think about it.

Jacob had his second week of communicants class. I ran some errands to get ready for small group, and so missed most of it. Of course, this was the night they asked some pretty in-your-face questions about church membership (and we don't plan to join this church, but it's a somewhat nuanced position that's challenging for a 40yo to explain, let alone a 10yo...) JakeRabbit sounded like he'd handled it fairly well, though. He's cool like that. And he enjoys the class, overall.

Our small group also had its first gathering. That was, oh man, so nice. Good discussions, a lot of laughter, and some very real conversation about things that matter, and why. I'm glad we're in this group. Hopefully, we won't be the weird ones. (Or if we are, maybe it will be in an affectionate way...) There aren't any teens in the other families, so James sat in with the adults. He may be the one to pull up our average score from the judges - such an insightful kid, and so thoughtful.

So now, it is with a good deal of gratitude, wet clothing, mud on the floors, and wood chips in the foyer that we head into another week. I can't complain. (Obviously, I can't clean, either.) Right now, it's all about the Good Stuff.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, February 10

And then...


But it wasn't forever and ever. It was only a few days where the high was in the 20's. The kids got a kick out of how cold their faces got just going onto the porch for wood. I contemplated (for the first time in quite a while) putting a woodbox in the wall so that we could just open a lid on the inside of the house and reach in for more wood.

Thankfully, that urge passed. I don't think we'll do any more work that involves removing and replacing brick. Not willingly, at any rate.

We did get out to the Space & Rocket Center to see the DaVinci exhibit. If you have the chance, check it out. It's a pretty neat exhibit.

 We had a few striking memories from it:

* DaVinci was more of a genius than we realized (and we went in *knowing* he was brilliant).

* So are the historians who could tell his tank was not, in fact, a space ship. I'm still skeptical. ;-)

* DaVinci's handwriting was atrocious, but James was able to read some of it using a mirror app on his phone.

* It makes me smile that he thought to do that.

* The exhibit is a perfect blend of hands-on and do-not-touch displays. I'm the only one of us who ended up missing one of the do-not-touch signs and touched something I shouldn't. Thankfully, John playfully smacked my hand and shook his head. He may also have mumbled something about not being able to take me anywhere.

* We need to go back. An hour and a half wasn't nearly long enough.

Kiss those babies, and stay warm!

Monday, February 3

Circus and Friends

I-65 was particularly treacherous after the ice coated most of the state last week. The Thursday circus showing was rescheduled for Sunday afternoon, because the troupe was stuck in Southern Alabama. I'm glad they weren't stranded on the Interstate, or injured trying to get North.

Still, we already had a lot of plans for Sunday, from Sunday School and service, to Candlemas dinner with friends, to small group and youth group. We don't handle Busy well under the best of circumstances, so I was hesitant to try to pull this off.

But Circus.

And little ones who had been guarding their tickets zealously for longer than they've not lost anything in a while.

We didn't want to skip church for the extra time.

We were all looking forward to our time with friends, though, and weren't willing to give that up.

Thankfully, they were willing to come to the circus with us! We enjoyed a lovely meal with them and headed out, convoy style, for the rest of the day.

By the time the show began, Jase has been going 90-to-nothing for ten straight hours. Z and I were starting to fret a little. I mean, the rest of us had been going that hard, too, but we're a bit more grizzled than the little guy... and there was cotton candy! (There were also cheesesticks in my purse, and about the time we all needed a little protein, those came in handy.)

He was so stoked. And with every new set of performers, he was amazed. "That's impossible! How can they do the impossible?" (Z and I felt the same. We kept whispering back and forth, "I can't do that. Just so you know." And we can't. No chance, even with ample warning and a personal trainer. We're well-matched that way.)
He thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the show, and about the time he started asking if we could go home now, they announced the grand finale. Perfect timing!

Z and I have never been to a circus together. We've never taken the kids. I have no idea why - this little show was really fantastic. It's heavy on human performers, which was very fun. (I'd planned to take more pictures, but at the beginning the Ringmaster said no digital recording of any kind is allowed, which I thought meant photos, too. Then at the end, he invited people to upload photos of the show to the troupe's Facebook page. So. Misunderstood that one. No pics for us.)

Em was enthralled with everything, from the costumes to the acrobatics, although she did murmur, wide-eyed, a few times, "Oh, no. I don't think I would like to do that!" And the boys enjoyed the performances - on one level, they appreciated the skill and effort that goes into this kind of thing, but on another, just the pure thrill of daring. I love that they haven't lost that.

Meanwhile, outside, the temperature outside plummeted by 15 degrees, and a cold, hard rain moved in. Z let us wait beneath the pavilion while he went to look for the car, and he said the rain was so heavy he nearly walked right past the car without recognizing it. We were all pretty played out for the day, and the idea of driving through that into town for another two hours of activity seemed... daunting. We bailed. We came home, started a fire, ate soup, and crashed like tired zombies.

I guess we're learning how to handle Busy well. Whether it's getting things together to get out the door, taking care of business while we're out, extending grace and kindness to ourselves and each other, or being willing to adapt as things go, we're doing pretty darned well. We're even better about remembering to stash protein for while we're out. I'm proud of us - of the kids, of Z, of myself.

We had a wonderful day, but it was very definitely a team effort that made it happen.

Kiss those babies!
~ Dy

Saturday, February 1

We got out!

So, remember my concern that Jase wouldn't take kindly to the whole Hiking thing? I didn't know there would be rocks:
Gorgeous rocks! Big rocks! And they were everywhere! I knew we'd picked a winner when Jase filled me in on what I'd missed (in the short time it took me to take off my own pack and go climb with them):

"It was huge and slippery and kind of scary, but James helped me get up there! And then John helped me jump over the hole near the edge. And then we climbed some more. And Mom :inhale deeply: THANK YOU for making us come! This place is awesome!"

I even got a hug for my efforts.

James and John got in on the action. Emily could happily spend days on the trail, seeing all there is to see. And Jacob? He was amazing. We hiked about 1.5 miles, but covered a lot more than that with segues over the rocks, vertical coverage, and other miscellaneous distractions (including a stop at the creek). I'd estimated we would hike "not nearly long enough for the 10yo, but a little bit farther than the 5yo will willingly go", and that turned out to be just about right. I'd brought chocolate for that last leg. One square of chocolate will buy me about 30 yards of complaint-free progress. 20 yards if it's steeply uphill.

That said, we have got to go more often. The two littlest aren't quite as... adept at scrambling about on rocks as the older ones are. (That's entirely my fault - when I only had two or three, we went somewhere every week, and they learned to scramble shortly after they'd learned to walk.) You have to have a good relationship with your own center of gravity to be comfortable on rocks, and you can only really develop it by getting out there and exploring it. So, we'll go. I spent too much of  our time on the trail trying to control my own breathing, catching myself from yelling, "Watch out!" by making weird squeaking noises and clearing my throat a lot. We went with new friends; I'm sure she thinks I have a verbal tic and a nervous condition.

Jase wasn't daunted, though, and he did a fantastic job!

(There's a 40' drop on the other side of that rock. If this were video, you could hear me squeaking to myself when he got to the top.)

I'll follow his example. It's a good one.

Kiss those babies!