Saturday, May 24

A Little Service

The boys and I drove down to Cullman yesterday to help the VFW place flags on the graves of veterans for the coming Memorial Day observation. They had a lovely turn out of people from all seasons of life, and everyone was very thoughtful and respectful.

Cemeteries are a big thing here in the South. They have decoration days and walking tours. People make a point to visit them when driving to other places. It's definitely A Thing. I love the idea of it, but after two hours of reading each and every headstone in this cemetery (so that we did not miss any of the veterans, we read each one carefully), I don't know that I could do it as a past time or a hobby. The endless litany of the lost -- infant children, toddlers, mothers, fathers, siblings, soldiers... every headstone representing an entire home, sometimes an entire community, mourning and filled with sorrow... it's a crushing weight when focused.

And people get attached to their cemeteries, here. One kind lady we spoke with was telling us about the cemetery where her parents are buried, and how there are many unmarked graves from when workers would follow the saw mills for work. If someone in the family died while they were stationed here, they would, understandably, bury the person there locally. I thought it was the lack of marker identification that bothered her, but she wrapped up her story with, "And then, when the work moved on, they just up and went! And left 'em there!" As if that were the more incomprehensible option. Well, I guess to her, it was. I don't know if the boys caught that, but I had to suppress a smile.

But I do get it. The cemetery my father is buried in is behind one of the high schools I went to, and I would often wander over during my lunch hour to sit in the solitude to think and pray. There is a sense of connection in the individual. And we need to strive for a sense of connection to the whole, to every soul who shares this earth with us. But for me, the weight of loss in finding that connection at the cemetery is too much. I'll seek out connections among those who share the earth with us now, and try to make our involvement one that makes the story a person will have a better one. It won't show on a headstone, but it will show where it matters most, and that's okay.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, May 20

A Soggy Adventure With Good Company

That was pretty much the gist of our weekend. Since last year, when I first found out about it, I've been anxiously awaiting the return of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga Battlefield's once-a-month bike tour. Normally, you have to walk these tours. I don't mind walking. We hike every week. But I do have a little bit of a mental block about walking civil war battlefields. in the South. in the Summer. We did one once. It was horrific. The whole experience was just one of those things that'll be funny in ten years. (It hasn't been ten years yet, so I can't properly tell the story yet. Someday, it'll be hilarious, though.) And while I was certain it would be a completely different experience with a completely different group of people, well, it left a mark.

So I was anxious (really anxious) to rally up a new experience to wipe the RAM and re-set the whole memory bank. (Been talking with James a lot today.) I asked a friend if she thought her family would like to go, too. They said yes! WooHoo! (I love them.)

So, last weekend was the first one of the year, and we were ready to go! The kids and I got all the things squared away: tents, food, chairs, first aid kit... Z modified the trailer to haul a billion bikes plus a cooler and the plow disc.

Reservations made, dates and times confirmed. (Ohhh, yes, I felt like such a grown up! No more showing up in New Orleans two days into Mardis Gras and no clue it was happening. Not this girl. At least, not when I have children depending on me. I could unravel completely after Jase leaves home.) But this time? I had this.

Except, the weather. The rain came, and it stayed. The weather app just showed clips from The Neverending Story as The Nothing swept across northern Georgia. We broke camp in the morning, just in case. (The lady at the campground couldn't believe we were checking out early and was rather insistent that the folks giving the weather report were from Atlanta, and they have no idea what they're talking about.) We smiled at each other as the rain drops began hitting the windshield as we pulled out of the visitors center.

Then we raced over to the Battlefield to see if they were still having the tour, or if it would be postponed. Yep, still on. They knew it was going to rain, but didn't really mind. So we dismantled the Rube Goldberg machine that has become our trailer, checked the bikes, and saddled up. Off they went!

I stayed behind. EmilyGirl still hasn't quite mastered bike riding. (Comes of living on a damn steep hill with a gravel drive and a terrifying drop into the creek if you don't stop in time. Since we've moved here, the kids have been learning to ride later and later.) So she and I trundled about in the grass, in the rain. We made it about half a mile in two hours, going one half a pedal push at a time. She never quite got the hang of it, but she never did give up. She did, however, fall quite a bit, and that was her biggest fear going into it, so... yay? I think. (I'm not glad my child wrecked. But at least now she knows falling off your bike isn't the most horrible thing that could happen. Conquering fear is good. Conquering fear on grass is even better.) I didn't make her cry, and she's been back on since we got home. I'm going to call that a win.

The boys returned wet, tired, and happy. The park ranger was amazingly knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The group they rode with was a great group. Jase had his inaugural ride on the Trail-A-Bike, and he was walking ten feet tall by the end of it.

And that's when the skies opened up and let loose the fury of a thousand shipwrecks. Holy cow, that was some amazing rain! We smiled at each other again, glad we didn't have to go back to break camp in the storm, and we all headed back home with a stop at Jefferson's for some oysters and burgers, and the necessary stop at Unclaimed Baggage to see what we could see.

And you know, it was a totally different experience. We just had to go with the right people. Our people. And it was fantastic!

Thursday, May 15

¡Hablamos Español!

Ooo! It worked! (I had to look up how to type the punctuation and the tilde.)

Anyway, Em and Jacob took a fun mini-class the last two weeks that introduced them to Spanish vocabulary.

The class was wonderful, Miss Pam is a delightful instructor, and now we're all wishing we could either take her home with us or take a longer course with her. Such fun!

And the kids? Ah, I love these kids. They're so delightful, and so funny. We're pretty spoiled.

James is nearing his first progress review with the orthodontist. This week, he got rid of the bite plate, and he's one happy camper!

And while the Middles were at Spanish, the Bigs enjoyed some volunteer time at the Native Plants Garden in Cullman, then an Edible and Medicinal Plants session. I was on Small One Duty (for a child who doesn't particularly care for New Things, this has been a rough Spring) on the other side of the park, so this is the only picture I got from that. We don't think it's edible or medicinal. But it's pretty, and it made us smile.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, May 12

Happy Mother's Day

I'd have posted this yesterday, but to be honest, I slept through it. We got up, dressed, and out the door for Sunday School and church, and I was awake. I was right there, on the ball, no stressing or worrying. Not even feeling particularly focused, to be truthful.

About ten minutes before the end of the service (which was a great service - this isn't a reflection on the pastor, at all), I realized I was dangerously close to going into full-on hibernation. I sat up. That didn't help.

I ate a mint. That didn't help.

I leaned forward. Boy, that really didn't help.

I sat back up and tried to stretch without shoving my arms into anyone's face.

Still no improvement.

So I got up and went to the hall, got a drink, stretched where only the little 11-month-old toddler and her mother could see me (they came around a corner mid-stretch - there was no way to pull out of it gracefully, so I just smiled and went with it).

I thought I was okay, so I slipped back in for communion. All was right with the world.

Until we got in the car. I fell asleep. Repeatedly and without warning.

And when we got home, I changed out of my church clothes and laid down for "just a bit". Kind of figured a little Mother's Day Nap was within the rules, right?

Five and a half hours later...

I got up then only because Z was starting to fret that I hadn't eaten enough, so he insisted I at least sit up and have a little something, even if I went straight back to bed afterword. Which, I didn't. I did stay up for the evening, for a nice visit with my mother in law and her sister, for hanging out with the kids and reading aloud. So, the day started nicely and ended beautifully, but I'm just going to have to trust everyone else on how the middle bit went.

I hope your Mother's Day brought you opportunities to make people feel appreciated, and opportunities for others to do the same for you.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, May 10

Hands On Life

The older three had an incredible opportunity this past week to take a course through the Alabama Water Watch. This day and a half course taught them the processes and importance of water monitoring and testing.

The first day, we learned how to do the basic chemical panel: taking ambient air and water temperatures, testing for pH, alkalinity, hardness, oxygen dissolution, turbidity, and more.

We learned the importance of understanding these indicators of overall waterway health, and what information to gather when you want to know what's going on in your water.

Sergio and Mona were fantastic instructors. They clearly love what they do, and the kids felt that enthusiasm.

That night, there was a camp fire, music, star gazing, and romping about in the woods until the wee hours of the morning.

(It did eventually get so dark that our hosts called the kids in from the woods before someone fell in a hole.) They reluctantly returned to their tents and passed. out. cold. It was a good time for all.

The second day, we focused primarily on bacteriological testing: how to sample and culture for e.coli and other choliforms.

After class ended, we broke camp and hit the river. Unfortunately, we didn't have the results of our bacterial cultures. Fortunately, we're all fine. ;-) (Our hosts live on this river and swim in it regularly, so we were relatively certain it was OK. Although the kids are excited to get the final culture, just to see what they can see.)

Until they're 16, they'll have to do all the testing under the supervision of a certified adult (this was my excuse for taking the class - score!)

But they'll be involved, and active, and know why they're doing what they're doing. And really, that's a big part of growing up - know why you do what you do, and do it well.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, May 4

So Long Farewell

Tonight, I had a serenade before bed. The Little were so tickled with this "new song" they'd found. So they sang it, in their tiny, sweet voices. Imagine their surprise when I joined in! "How'd YOU know this song?"

They haven't seen The Sound of Music, so I was a little surprised that THEY knew it. They explained that they set up a Disney station on Pandora, and it plays this song.

This has opened a whole new world of possibilities. Turns out, the key for them to enjoying a good musical is knowing the music first, and then seeing the movie. (In other words, I've been doing it wrong.)

But now I know! They always have something to teach me.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, May 2

Small Town Fun

Steak sandwiches made with real ribeye steaks, grilled there on the courthouse square, live music (fantastic Fleetwood Mac covers - wow!), local vendors, good friends, and, as a final touch, some of the most spectacular fireworks you could ever wish to see...

That was the game plan at the annual town celebration today. That doesn't even count the antique car show, the 1 mile fun run and the 5K. 

It doesn't include the beautiful skies and friendly local personalities, the charitable groups doing good things for people in the community, and the community itself.

Sometimes, it's just awesome to live here.

Kiss those babies!

The End of the Year

Well, not our year, but the year-in-general. Co-ops are wrapping up, SAT tests are everywhere, and just about everyone I know has that weathered, exhausted look in their eyes that says, "Is it time to play yet?"

The weather was perfect for our hike today. The teens covered about 4.5 miles, and you could hear them laughing from a quarter mile away. Jase and I ambled about in the back, holding hands and looking for interesting things. He was in a bit of a mood at the start, but seeing turtles and snakes and dragonflies up close does wonders for the soul. On one log, we saw a snapping turtle and a red-eared slider. Jase wondered what they eat, and I said we should find out. He smiled up and me and said, "You should ask Google." So I did. Turns out, they eat everything. And now we know! Thanks, Google!

Sadly, by the time we got to Skate Day, he was tired and hot and just plain out of energy. It's hard to learn many things at once.

Our local homeschool social group breaks from official meetings and regularly scheduled events for the Summer. Today was the last of the Skate Days until the Autumn. Of course, we're all going swimming later in the month, and there are still field trips on the docket, so the kids didn't have that End of Year feeling that I remember from the last days of school. Mostly, they were stoked about the glo-skate. (30 minutes in the dark with black lights and fog! On wheels! I usually just stay in the snack area, not looking, and assume if someone gets hurt, they'll let me know. Otherwise, I'd probably cause a wreck with all my gasping and yelling, "Watch out!" It's better this way.)

Glow sticks are always fun! (For Jacob, everything's fun. Although when he saw this photo, he asked when I'd taken it, and what on earth he'd been doing. "Ohhhhh! Yeah, I was showing you my glow sticks!" Admittedly, I should have turned off the flash.)

Our little town Celebration is coming up, and we're ready to enjoy some local food and fireworks! What are you up to this weekend? I hope it's a great adventure.

Kiss those babies!