Wednesday, April 30

Big Fun on the Catwalk, and a Good Turn

The children were invited to participate in the Aveda Insitute's annual Catwalk for Water this last week. This is the organization's annual scholarship competition and fundraiser for their clean water programs and initiatives, and is comprised of designs, created by the students and staff at the Institute, made entirely of recycled materials (trash, leftovers, re-purposed goods, thrift store finds, etc). They then bring in the make up and hair teams to finish the look, and the happy volunteers take a turn on the catwalk.

Good fun for a good cause. What's not to love? We went with a group of homeschooled teens we've been very fortunate to get to know - doing this with friends made it even better. We arrived at noon, and the process began - matching outfits to models and tweaking this and that along the way. The kids all pitched in and helped each other out. They helped with adjustments to outfits, prep for the walk, went through rehearsals and blocking, then back for more prep. During downtime, they kept busy keeping our space squared away (it seemed huge when we got there, but after four hours or so, it felt awfully small, and hot), encouraging each other, or helping to keep nerves at bay and the Littles occupied.

They were a team, the entire time. (Well, except for one DS face-off. But even that was pretty high on the camaraderie scale.)

We didn't leave until ten o'clock, and while I honestly expected to be absolutely ready. to. go. by that time, I could have gone for a quick power nap and done another round. (Says the lady who didn't have to sit through hair and makeup, of course.)

The theme this year was Hunger Games, so each model was assigned a District. 

We had Livestock (as actual animals - there were three goats and one white reindeer)

Masonry (depicted as tar birds)

and Rebels from District 13.

The whole group of students depicted a wide array of Districts and creatures. They were such great sports about it, and had a really fantastic time.

John got mobbed by a gang of beautiful blonde models. It wasn't quite what most men have in mind when they think of that, but we told him he can check it off his bucket list, anyway. Close enough, right?

Jacob was the largest of the Rebel children. It went to his head just a wee bit, and he reveled in having chipper minions. (Didn't help that he had a star on his chest and fern leaves on his shoulders - that just oozes power and forest dominion, doesn't it?)

Em *hated* getting the eye make up applied. She was a trooper, though. The staff was wonderful and gentle and kind with her. But she *loved* the hair, and the dress, and the excitement of the whole thing. The three little girls looked like fairies scampering about in their woodland garb.

James was wonderful in character, although he said he felt a bit silly with all that hair up top. 

John did a double-take when he heard he'd be wearing actual hair horns. I do wish I'd captured that on camera. But when the time came, he rocked the persona and gave it his best Blue Steel look. (This only makes sense if you've seen Zoolander.)

I loved this opportunity for so many reasons. The kids got to see some out-of-the-box thinking in terms of The Real World. They got to participate in an active and interesting way with big projects and big ideas. Several of them stepped way outside of their comfort zones for this project, and that is commendable. Even better? Everyone, and I do mean every. single. one. of them, was supportive and encouraging and uplifting to the others. They were there for hours, and not a deprecating or negative word was spoken. These are kids who get it, and they're doing good things. Together. Wow.

Not every volunteer project will be this glamorous (quite literally - I think the next one involves... horse stalls...) but I imagine they'll have just as much fun at the next one. They're like that. It's one of the things I appreciate about these kids. I can't wait to see what they do next!

Kiss those babies!

OHHH! I'm so excited!

James just helped me figure out my ongoing photo upload-hosting-where-did-I-put-that issues! I'm so happy about this! Yes, it's a first world problem, but my ability to do interesting things now that I'm not avoiding tech issues just ramped way the heck up. 


I love/appreciate having a techy child who is willing to back off from the things *he* wants to do, to help me set things up to do them in a way that works for me. (Because let's face it, my days of getting excited over what I "can" do vs. what I have time to do, and want to do, and am willing to do, are pretty clearly behind me. At least for now.)

Let the Doing Of Other Things commence!

Kiss those babies (even if you have to ask them to bend down a little so you can reach their cheeks)!

Tuesday, April 29

Busy Days!

The kids asked for a day at home, since we've had one in the last ten days, but that was for re-packing gear and doing laundry. Not quite the same.

After the storms that ripped through here last night, I think they'll get their wish today. We weathered it just fine, but not everyone did, so as the reports come in, we're looking for opportunities to help and pay forward all the generous care we've received in the past. If you don't mind saying a prayer for the Southeastern US this morning, that would be much appreciated.

James spent a fantastic week in New Mexico, eating, learning, experiencing, and doing.  He ate a lot of new food (mostly Vietnamese and Indian, I think), which thrilled his food-curious heart no end. He Skyped with us on Easter Sunday so Em could show him her dress, and Z and I could put eyes on him in real time. It was a chance to see the tangible benefits of hard work and self-discipline, and to walk away with more knowledge and insight than he arrived with. That's hard to pass up. His team won an award for Creativity and Innovation in Design: they each received a plaque and $50.  We picked up a very happy camper the following week.

Meanwhile, we had a quietly busy week while James was gone. (I spent a lot of time standing in parking lots, waiting for him to come around the back of the Suburban, then realizing he wasn't actually in the parking lot with us. The kids thought that was hilarious.) We went to the annual Earth Day movie (it was Bears this year, and absolutely fantastic) with friends, then shuttled over to the Teen Game Day for a visit and some fun.

The rest of the weekend was taken up with projects - for me, mainly the quarterly changing of the seasonal clothing and updating of the sizes. I realized I have a lot of things in the basement we can pass along, now. They're too small for Em or Jase. Some of them were rather large sizes, to my way of thinking, for me not to have a child wearing them. Things are about to get weird, I suspect. Easter was a lovely day of joyful celebration with church family and local friends. Then I took the kids camping.

We slipped out to DeSoto State Park to enjoy a little camping and exploring. We scampered around Cherokee Rock Village in the fog (fantastic for kids, a wee bit terrifying for mothers), hiked and hiked all over the place, and played at DeSoto Falls (something I've been dying to do for the last five years! It was worth the wait!)

John and Jacob absolutely rock the camp set up action. Em and Jase have found their groove, and they're more help than not at this stage. It could not have gone more smoothly, or been more fun. Even John mentioned that the loading and setting up seemed "freakishly easy". He was worried we'd forgotten something, or left someone. I told him I know the feeling. We did a head count and called it good.
James flew back in on Wednesday as we headed out from DeSoto, and everyone arrived home covered in road grime, exhausted, and happy.

We had Thursday to re-pack, wash clothes, catch up, and rest, for Friday we headed out to the Camporee. That was a truly amazing experience. I sat in with the Rocking Chair Patrol (the adult leaders). Seldom saw the kids except when we ambled over to take pictures. The boys' Troop hosted the Camporee, and these boys were on fire. They were busy and engaged the whole time. They handled everything from administration to direction. They were gracious and encouraging. I think my favorite tidbit of feedback came from one Scout who came panting up to the check-in desk after the Orienteering course and exhaled, "That was hilariously awesome!" Well, that's hard to beat, isn't it?

We slipped out after the camp fire on Saturday night so we could be ready for Sunday's adventure... which requires a post all its own.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, April 19

New Adventures!

Thursday morning, James and I headed out at four in the morning. It was dark and chilly and awesome!

We drove to Chattanooga, and from there, he flew to Albuquerque to participate in a computer competition he's been working on since September. He had to tidy up his hair a bit, for presentation's sake, and get a suit, and then he was off. (He loves the suit, but was sad about the hair. I told him if he knocks it out of the ballpark this year, he can probably show up in house slippers and long hair next year, and as long as he brings the best game, nobody will bat an eye -- he hasn't seen Real Genius yet, and he wasn't really nurtured into adolescence on John Hughes movies, so he probably just thinks I'm in early onset dementia). It didn't cheer him up, any, about the hair, but flying and traveling in relative comfort (meaning, without your siblings' feet in your face, or drool on your shoulder) are compensation enough for a re-set on the hair of your 15yo dreams.

(I have pictures, but there are some changes to Dropbox and I haven't quite figured them out, yet.)

So far, he's having a great time! He enjoyed the flight. His terribly awesome Uncle took him shopping at the Asian market, where he got to stock up on all manner of goodies and interesting things. (He does love interesting foods!) He's been working on things I don't understand, and taking on projects I didn't expect, and in general, just spreading his wings and giving them a good stretch and a couple of flaps.

I miss him terribly.

But this is so good, and such a neat part of growing up. I can't feel anything but excitement for him.

Kiss those babies ~ even when they aren't babies, anymore! They're still so amazing!


Tuesday, April 15

One Last Freeze

Surprise Spring Cold Snap! After wearing shorts and light shirts all weekend, we had to break out emergency layers this morning! The ground is littered in oak and grass pollen, but the temps were in the low 40's by noon, and the low tonight is going to be in the 20's. That's a little crazy.

We went to see the San Jose Taiko performance this morning. If you ever have the opportunity to see this group perform, please treat yourself and go! They truly are art in motion, and it's a visual thrill as well as a musical one. Every one of our group sat, entranced, through the whole performance. I was a little nervous about how quickly two hours would pass (what with the small one), but it was over before anyone got antsy. I'd have gotten pictures, but they said we can't. And then one of the door guards sat right behind me. James thinks I looked a little sketchy. He's probably right.

James needed a suit for an upcoming project, and he's outgrown his Dr. Who outfit from Halloween, so we got him suited up and ready to roll. Luckily, the old suit fits John, and he thought it'd be perfect for Easter service. So now, of course, Jacob's thinking a suit would be swanky for Easter, too! It's been a while since everyone had a suit. The default "dress clothes" have consisted of a general pair of Docker-esque tan pants and a polo for so long, now. (I really miss the days when we could pop into Sears and grab those little boy suits for $30. Those days are long gone for most of the crew.)

And, haircuts. Because we are a shaggy, scraggly bunch at the moment. Jacob's hair whisperer is back to work at a new place, and he can't wait to see her. Brian, The Hair Guy, can squeak us in, too, for the rest of the kids. (Funny tidbit about Brian. He has two homeschool families, and he's spent the last four years constantly asking us if we knew each other, but we didn't. He insisted we had to. We just HAD to. We figured it was a case of, "Oh, you're from Earth! Do you know Bob?" It happens. Yet, now that we've met, we can see how he thought we *had* to know each other. We do SO many of the same things. And we live in such a small area. Somehow, we've orbited around each other without ever being in the same place at the same time the last few years, like a comedy sketch in a restaurant kitchen. I think his stress level has dropped considerably now that we don't all smile-and-nod and give each other sidelong glances when he mentions us knowing the other family!)

We've had an airsoft gathering, and done some work on the property. Buddy doesn't smell like skunk anymore. The dogwoods are in bloom. We haven't tackled a garden, yet, but everyone has expressed an interest in having one, so I guess we'll have to get on that at some point. (This is where my competent gardening friends roll their eyes and start saying, "Honey, you should've had..." It's a wonder they admit to knowing me in public.) I'm going to blink soon and find we're smack in the middle of Summer, aren't I?

Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 11

Awesome Weather!

This is why we school year-round. It was so cold, and wet, (and did I mention cold-for-here?) this Winter, and we know Summer's going to have its hot'n'sticky days (it always does...) So we've been running amok now, with highs in the low 70's and lows in the high 40's.

We went to Clarkson Covered Bridge and spent the day playing games, roaming about, enjoying the day.

We went to Monte Sano and spent the day running about, enjoying the view, and refreshing our spirits with all the color and laughter the day had to offer.

Our local homeschool group had Field Day this week. We spent the day... well, you get the picture. Plus, there was ice cream!

The chicks are out of the basement and into their tractors!
Em told me the other day that she really enjoys reading.
Jase loves phonics. (Classical Phonics, from Memoria Press. If you have one that likes to illustrate and doodle, this is a great, great program!)
We've had to replenish the duct tape supplies twice this week.
James is gearing up for a trip. (I can't wait to tell you more!)
John is happy.
Z is happy, and busy, and making things, and just generally excited about life.
Aside from the fact that I simply cannot get a grip on the house right now, life is pretty darned fantastic!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 7

On Being Social and Living Spaces

We had small group last night. We have such a sweet group of people. And such a neat blend of backgrounds and interests. There are children everywhere, and it's funny how loud the children are, and how quiet the adults are. I kind of wish the adults were just a little louder, because I feel like one of the children. Still, they haven't thrown us out, yet.

James and I had to slip out early to take the pulled pork to his youth group. Then I retreated to a coffee shop to read for a quiet, upright, hour and a half. (The upright is important, because reading in bed is like breathing chloroform. I don't know why. Probably because I'm exhausted. Reading on our couch has the same effect because the corner is very inviting and it's easy to slip down into a prone position. The next thing I know, the dog's sticking his nose in my face to wake me up.)

The boys keep sharing book titles with me (Mom! You have to read this!), so right now I'm reading Carpe Jugulum, courtesy of John; Rebel Code, courtesy of James; and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, thanks to Em.

Reading Terry Pratchet in public can be awkward. There's a lot of sniggering and chuckling and occasionally snorfling of coffee if a sip was poorly timed. Other than that, I love my Sunday evening reading time.

We finally put the living room back together after the last game day. You know, a week later. I should have moved more quickly: the large industrial table I'd brought up from the basement got grafted into the permanent plan. I tried to take it down the day after game day, but the guys came over to shoot and used it as a landing space for gear. Then the next day, we had more company and it was the perfect spot for putting the potluck snacks and goodies. By Monday morning, Jacob and Em had set up their school work at the table. It was too late for me to make my move. Now it's a crafting-woodworking-tattooing-drawing-schooling-reading-everything-table. Since it doesn't violate my uni-tasker rule (by any stretch of the imagination), it stays. It is very utilitarian. But man, is it ugly.

Then I realized, as much as I think I would love a magazine show quality home, we'd have to find somewhere else to actually live. So it's all good.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, April 6

Friends Make Everything Better

It seems like friendship is this year's theme. That makes me smile to my toes, really.

Yesterday morning, EmilyGirl and I slipped off for brunch with a friend and her daughter. It wasn't a long visit, but it was a sweet visit, and I'm so glad we went. Of course, the boys were a bit flummoxed. "Wait. What? Where are you going? Are we going? Should we load up the gifts now? You're going alone?! Weird." Can you tell Em and I haven't done anything like that before?

Em mentioned that she needed more felt. (We'd just bought her a huge pile of felt the day before, no questions asked, for a surprise she wanted to make for Easter. Already she needed more?) I raised my eyebrow. She smiled brightly. We stopped for more felt after brunch.

This was the surprise: Easter Baskets for everyone!

Then we all loaded up and headed to a birthday party for a very special little boy. He's turning four. Dear heaven, that's a cute, cute age. We weren't there five minutes before James had him in his arms, letting the little guy give him a tour of their chicks and chicken tractor. Although we'd built the chicken tractor and know it inside and out, James enjoyed the enthusiasm and joy of the little guy showing off his special things. 15 is a pretty awesome age, too.

Isn't that an idyllic setting? There are a lot of bodies hidden by flowers and trees. It was a perfect day to hang out with friends and celebrate together.

The kids gave the Little ones Easter baskets, homemade foam swords, and a shield (they made a sword for his little sister, because it's hard to observe a birthday with no gifts for you when you're wee tiny, and also so they can play together). Z and I apologized pre-emptively for all the things that are likely to get broken and bruised because of our involvement.

We came home, worked hard for an hour, and then the day disappeared into game time. The day was stacked pretty heavily with Highs when we did our Highs and Lows at dinner. What a great day!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 4

In Like A Lion

March was busy! March was cold! March was, all things considered, pretty awesome.

(The picture's from April. But the sentiment's the same.) Our Friday hikes have been a little willy-nilly, but we're getting the hang of it, getting out regularly, and have had a blast. The teen game day is one of the kids' favorite events of the month. They're trying to figure out a way to have it more often, but not have to clean for it more often. (If they can figure that out, I'm likely to say yes.)

I took James and John with me to the GHC convention in Greenville. Road trip (they're both excellent travelers), met up with friends (friends make every adventure more fun), and enjoyed some truly exceptional speakers. They were even treated to a celebrity sighting at the Greek restaurant we stopped at for lunch one day -- Mr. Steve, from MUS!

Except for the time I got to visit with David Kern. He was very generous and thoughtful. I, however, turn into Phil, post-freezing incident. (If you haven't seen Better Off Ted, go ahead and watch the episode where they freeze Phil. It's horrifying to have that happen in real life. But there you have it.) It happened when I tried to visit with Martin Cothran, too. I get around the rock stars of Classical Ed and I turn into a total basket case. I've gotta work on that. But the convention was an overall win, and the boys are already planning on attending again next year.

We visited with the NCFCA at a tournament in Birmingham to check it out and see about forming a forensics club for next year. The feedback was great, and the boys are interested. They sat in on team policy debate, persuasive speaking, and humorous interpretation, so they got a decent cross-section view of what's available. Hopefully, we'll be able to round up enough students to give it a go!

We've made *zero* progress on the house. Part of that is being out of the house all the time. By the time we get home again, we're all bushed and really only up for making a snack plate and watching a little Netflix or reading a book. The washer started leaking. We did wash on the front porch for a week, trying to track down the leak. Found it, and so that's done. The rest of our project time has been spent building archery butts and sleds, and chicken tractors. So, it's not all Dr. Who and Snack Plates...

There's a LOT of good stuff coming down the pike for April. I'm a little woozy thinking about it, but as it comes together, I'll share. (I got a Blogger app for Chrome - hoping that'll somehow make it feel easier to blog regularly again.)

Kiss those babies!