Thursday, June 22

AAAIIIGHHHHH!

So, I'll be upfront with you... I'm a little nervous about this trip. I'm excited, sure. It's going to be gorgeous and amazing. Just seeing the boys' reactions to the new terrain and their experience - WOW. And I'm fairly certain that they're going to need to drug me to get me back in the van to come back to the humidity when it's over. But I'm also nervous, and it's manifesting in weird ways.

For instance, I developed an overwhelming concern that I was going to fall off a cliff, or into an arroyo and - no, not die, but catch my wedding ring on a mesquite branch on the way down and lose my finger. I mean, I could die. Gravity is a harsh mistress and I'm not graceful even when I'm not entirely at her mercy. But it wasn't the fear of plummeting to my death that has kept me up at night (or even of getting impaled by a mesquite branch, although now that I think of it...); it was the fear of having to hike out with my finger in a cooler. So I fixed it.


That puppy will tear right off, I hope! Now I can move on to other worrisome things...

Like running out of food on the trail. I got my meals divvied up and vacuum sealed today. The breakfast bar looks like I'm braced for an orienteering course at an orphanage right now. In spite of months of research, running the numbers, eyeballing the menu, cross-checking everything against the norm, plus adding 20% for error, I just can't quite trust that I'm not going to run out of food and get stuck sucking down pop tarts and being thankful for it. (So I just ordered an entire POUND of Pili Nuts. See how this is unfolding?) Man, you give a girl a vacuum sealer and she goes nuts.

Heh. Nuts.

Yeah, I'm tired.

But now that the food and the ring have been addressed, maybe I can get some decent sleep, yeah? And work on my coping mechanisms. That would probably also be beneficial. But for now, I have nuts and silicon and am feeling a little better.

Be encouraged!

~Dy

Wednesday, June 21

New Schedules, New Days, New Foods

It's only mid-week and already the Littles miss their in-house IT man. 😄 I can fix  you up if you've got a gaping wound, need help deciphering new words, or learning how to cook. If you can't get into the something-admin-something of the something-mod in the something-world of Minecraft, though, you're just going to have to wait for your brother to get home. He seems happy with the new routine, and is stepping into it beautifully.

The rest of us are also getting used to this new schedule. It's weird. The Littles and I are on a solid one-week run of getting to the library (I know, it's a wonder they put up with us), and we may make it through June without any  more late fees if we keep this up. John's missing the Volvo (part is en route!) and would like to be independently mobile again, but he's been fantastic about communicating to make sure everyone's got the wheels they need when they need them to get where they need to be. Jacob seems to be all-in on his schedule, as far as dance goes. Not so much the academics, but it's a process. I hope.

I do think Z really enjoys the carpooling action, though. He hasn't had years of that daily commute time with the kids, so this is a nice treat for him to have some regular one-on-one time with James. No clue what they talk about, but they both seem content.

Our gear is arriving! My puffy jacket arrived! It fits! It's so warm! It's so exciting! I hope it's chilly enough to need it while we're there - that would be the best birthday surprise!

Also, I received my Pili Nuts order today. (Pronounced /pee'-lee/.) Before they'd arrived, I'd have told you that the customer service was really something special. The folks at Hunter-Gatherer Foods are a delight to do business with, and I was quite looking forward to checking out the Pili Nuts. Now that I've opened the bags and tried some of their product (the turmeric and black pepper, the raw cocao, and the coconut oil and salt), I will tell you that if you order some (and you should), get the bigger bags. You won't be sorry! I have found my new go-to trail snack, on-the-go snack, and "emergency" food. This is the kind of thing I'm absolutely asking Santa for at Christmas. I also think I'll need to order more before we leave. These four bags won't make it to departure day! (I am not making anything off this - this is just me, telling you about something I found that's pretty fantastic!)

John and I had our physicals today. We both appear healthy enough to the average physician and have the all-clear to head to Philmont! My pulse was a little high - as soon as the nurse called my name, my heart started doing jello-shots of adrenaline like it was ladies' night, and I could not calm down. Z laughed and said it's probably a wee bit of PTSD. I laughed, too, because it's absurd and he's probably right. But there's nothing I can do about it except roll with it. Maybe one day I can get to the point where a nurse can call me back without my body yelling, "Cops! Hide!" Or maybe it'll just be how I respond from now on. Who knows? I'm new at this, and probably bad at this, but thankful to have the opportunity to try, at any rate.

And on that note, I am going to grab a book and head to bed. We've got storms coming in off the tropical depression. We're safe here (just damp), but you all in the path of the storm, be careful, look out for one another, and check in when you can!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, June 19

More Prep and Random Things

James' security clearance is good to go, and he starts actual work-work today. I suspect the good Lord let it drag out so long in order to help him be truly excited to work. 😏 Good stuff. He just finished taking his first professional certification, passed it, and he's on his way. It is very exciting to see your grown child follow his passion.

The guys think they've figured out why the Volvo keeps shearing bolts at the alternator. That's more exciting than it should be, but there you have it. We're easily pleased and appreciative. Also, it's NOT a $200 part! That just made it even better, as far as I'm concerned!

I've got the keto menu plan for Philmont just about nailed down. Now it's just a matter of buying the stuff and getting it portioned out. I put powdered heavy cream and powdered eggs on my list. Need to pick up packets of mustard and those little salt and pepper packets, too. If Z hadn't been working on the Volvo, the roast would be dehydrated by now. As it stands, I'm a little nervous about taking trail food that we haven't field tested... eee.

If these kids would just stop needing rides for a week or so, that'd be super helpful (although that's why Z's been working on the Volvo, so six of one, half a dozen of the other). I thought the Bigs would be able to haul the Littles at some point, but they went and got jobs. What's up with their responsibility getting in the way of my payoff? (Not really complaining, well... maybe a little.) Uber needs to set up a NannyCar option - background screened drivers with in-car video on CCTV and offsite storage. I could use that...

But, that said, our Philmont gear order is beginning to arrive. John's puffy jacket, sock liners, our pack covers and sleeping pads. My teeniny camp stove! I have to tell you, I. am. geeking. out over how little this stuff weighs! WOW! Mad love for technology and development! I'm guessing we'll be a lot more comfortable in-camp, as well, than I ever was on the trail. THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!

What's got you excited this month?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Sunday, June 18

SO, I didn't die.

That's the end goal, there, and I won. Yay!

THE GOOD:

1. I didn't die!

2. I didn't panic, go limp and refuse to move. (That was a serious consideration at one point.)

3. My Five Fingers are da'bomb! I love these things more than any gear I have ever owned in. my. life.

4. I did the first 10 miles fasted, and those were amazing miles. Most of our day hikes at Philmont are going to be around 10 miles, so I'm feeling uber-confident that I can do this and hold my head up at the end. (Especially once you account for drier air, lower temps, and fewer ticks. Hallelujah!)


THE BAD:

1. Ticks. Lord, have mercy, we never left the trail and there were ticks everywhere.

2. The weather. I wouldn't choose to hike in that heat or humidity for fun, ever. Ever ever. Ugh. Honestly, I am surprised they went through with it in these conditions. It was awful.

3. I haven't bought hiking clothes that fit, and nothing I own that stays up is appropriate for hiking, so I stole James' BDU pants and wore those - they were awesome for keeping the ticks out, but they did not help with the heat or the humidity. Blech.

4. I didn't eat enough when we stopped for lunch (in my head, we had more time to eat, and so I didn't just stuff it in there like it turns out I should have) and I did run dead out of energy around mile 13 or so. It was like watching a drunk stumble forlornly through the woods.

THE UGLY:

1. I am so slow. Like, embarrassingly slow. I can match the cadence, but my stride is tiny, like I'm hobbled or something. I don't know what that's all about, or when it happened. But gosh.

2. I slept poorly the night before, fretting over ticks (which turned out to be TOTALLY JUSTIFIABLE). So that didn't help, any. Also, sometimes I hate being right.

3. But mostly, I realized I need to adjust my pace quite a bit to hang with the Scouts. They go all-out on speed for shorter stints, stop just long enough to catch their breath, and then back at it. This means they stop a lot (and stopping just kills me - momentum, rhythm, slog, focus, all gone), and none of the stops are truly restful, which kind of sucks the fun out of being on the trail. It's like driving somewhere with someone who won't stop at a Buc-ee's just because, or pull over for coffee when you're out. So, I have two weeks to get a grip on that.

******

Today, James and I figured out how to adjust my old Alpine Contour III! That was exciting! I did not realize just how anxious I was about the pack issue until we got it put right. It was as if every care I had in the world melted away. (At least for a little while.)

The rest of our gear should be in tomorrow and then we're just down to a few dodads and miscellany. I am really excited about this trip!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, June 16

No Big News

Or, rather, scads of Big News, just not the news I thought I'd have to share.

Z had applied for a position in Colorado. It would have been a fantastic fit for him - doing GOOD work, doing something he loves (problem solving), and right where he wants to be. We had a lot of optimism about this one. However, someone with years experience doing *that* exact job (which Z, although a quick study, did not have), who is already spooled up and in the game, also applied. That guy was an objectively better fit for the position. Plus, his position where he currently is was about to be eliminated. So we can't begrudge him the award. But I do hope he really, really enjoys it for us.

Meanwhile, we're all trying to suck it up and brace ourselves for another Alabama summer.

*whimper*

With the job possibility on the horizon, pretty much everything beyond graduation was in limbo: Philmont, Circe, summer school, kids' jobs, kids' colleges, the Universal trip, you name it. Every. single. thing. was on hold. The problem with limbo (other than the absolute mind-fraying inability to plan!) is that deadlines and time don't also get put on hold during that time. So, now that the limbo is lifted and decisions are made, we kind of have to hustle.

John and I head to Philmont in about two weeks. Two and a half? Something like that. He's got the calendar. I'm just an adult with a driver's license. I had excellent intentions of hiking daily, but the double-punch of it being Alabama in June (ugh, the weather is so hot and muggy), and the appealing thought of being able to hike in Colorado, instead... well, I do not have the internal fortitude to fight that powerful combination. So I haven't hiked. We've got a 20-miler tomorrow. I guess we'll see how badly this is going to bite me in the rear, then...

I did break out my beloved old backpack (turns out, when I say "old", it's near-vintage old - 27-years!) and gave it a good scrub. It's still mostly waterproof! WOW! Can't for the life of  me figure out how to adjust the shoulder harness on it. It LOOKS like it should be adjustable, but I can't nail it down and I'm terrified of breaking it in the process of trying. Not really thinking about how much things have changed in almost 30 years, I got online to try and find a video for that. (Go ahead and laugh, I'll wait.) Then I emailed the company to ask for assistance. A very kind rep got back with me quite quickly and admitted that... nobody there now was there that long ago or has any idea what system is on it, but he said he'd try to track someone down and get me sorted. I sent some photos of the harness system, and hope someone is willing to come out of retirement to lend an old lady a hand!

That said, when this puppy gets replaced, it'll be with another Lowe Alpine pack. This one has hiked portions of the AT, meandered around the Blue Ridge Mountains, biked with me all over Vermont and NY, trekked down into the Grand Canyon (several times) and into Havasupai. It's gone on untold shorter 4-day treks over the years, as well. Then I passed it along to James, and it survived his Scouting years (which weren't kind... this isn't his Zen area). Now it's back with me, again, if I can get the harness adjusted. I don't even remember what we paid for it, but I remember my 17y.o. self was in awe of owning something that pricey at the time, and it's been worth every penny. I'm a little giddy at the thought of getting one that weighs less...

So that's been it, here. A lot of breath-holding, a lot of tension, and a lot of bustle in the end. It's all good. I can't wait to see what's next!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, June 7

The Gauntlet Is Run!


Whoa, y'all. That was an insanely busy week. I am not going to bore you with the logistics (there were many, and they are boring), but it was a gauntlet. And we made it! It was a little bittersweet.

Thankfully, it was a gauntlet filled with good fun, great people, and fat little baby legs! Ohhh, that makes everything do-able. (It also highlighted that nobody left in my house has squishable thighs. Also, that it would be weird if I checked.)


My sister-in-law, y'all? She is a Rock Star! I love her so much, and I hope my brother-in-law does, too, because we must keep her forever and ever. (And how very far away we are -  I need her closer.)

While the family was here, we took them fishing one day and to the water park the next. We got a pontoon boat and spent a day on the river, then a day of rambling about in the woods.



(Z got to do most of the fun stuff - I was running a parallel activity plan that involved hauling children to and from Space Camp, ballet performances, and a photo shoot. So I missed some of the fun in my alternative life as an Uber driver*.)


Finally, there was Space Academy graduation and a day exploring the Space and Rocket Center, followed by the graduation weekend - ceremony one day, party the next.


We saw them off on Monday and then sort of liquefied in the living room - it looked like a crime scene in here, with limbs draping off edges and debris all over the floor (it rained the day of the party - three cheers for hard floors that don't care!) We rested and came down from the high of spending time with friends and family.

Tuesday was about all I could handle on the not caring part, though, and so we cleaned. And cleaned. And sighed contentedly.

Now it's time to look ahead. Jacob is at rocketry camp this week, in preparation for joining a competitive rocket team in the fall. He's quite looking forward to that.

James starts work at his internship on Friday, and I can't even begin to tell you how excited he is about that!

John had tooth extractions this week, to prepare him for braces. He's excited about that all being done and is running his own gauntlet this week. But it'll be good soon.

I guess the rest of us should consider a plan for the Fall, and some ideas for Summer. First, though, we'll give thanks -- for opportunities, for fellowship, for savoring the bittersweet of life and time.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

* Not actually for Uber, but now that I think about it, this is totally going on my application when I apply...

Wednesday, May 31

Fast Arrivals and Sudden Stops

The family has arrived! They pulled in on Sunday evening, and as quickly as they entered, all progress on the house gave way to time enjoying baby giggles and cousin laughter.

Z's taken them fishing and to the water park. He is a larger-than-life figure, and I think he's enjoying it just as much as they are.

Tomorrow, we take a pontoon out on the river for a day of cruising and cove exploration! We've got the menu planned and the route figured out. The nephews will get a chance to pilot a boat beneath the bridge if they're very good. (Probably even if they're not. But they're good kids, so I'd put money on making it happen.)

I didn't go fishing, but got to stay behind and hold the newest addition to the family - a wee baby with scrunchy-faced expressions and laughter that starts in the toes! I also got to visit (in the comfort of climate controlled, upholstered space) with my dear Sister-in-Law for a bit. I've gotta say, my Brother-in-Law married quite a gem. She is just fantastic.

I didn't make it to the water park, either. Jacob needed ferrying from point A to point B, back to point A, and again to point B, and so on... We had inadvertently overbooked this week. He thought he hadn't received the Space Academy scholarship (he hadn't expected to, since he did receive it last year), so he committed to the school sketches at the ballet school, which take place the same week. About a month later, they received more funding and went through the applicants to see who else they could award it to. His application passed the second round. It was a wonderful conundrum - but one that required a good deal of logistics and a wee bit of heckling to make it happen. He made it, though, to all the rehearsals and tonight's performance, and he's thoroughly engaged and having a successful camp experience.

He also napped in the car for about an hour before the show. I don't blame him. You can only go 90 mph for so long before you have to stop.

And rest.

Which is what we've all been doing this week with the family, and it's been nice!

We'll need to muster some spring in our gait before this weekend, though. It's about to get busy!

I hope your last week of May is going beautifully!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, May 27

It feels so good to succeed.

(I found this in my drafts folder from 2008. It made me smile. I thought it should see the light of day.)

We all know that it feels good to succeed. We all know the power of praise well-earned. I think we (and by that, I mean "I") fall into the trap of wanting to praise perfection, and feeling exasperated by failures or struggles.

But life is full of failures and struggles. How we handle them is one true measure of success. (And perfection? Just throw that one out the window. It's overrated and stressful. Blech.) It doesn't take much to say simple things that have a strong impact on guiding how they learn to handle the struggles and failures:

I'm proud of you for sticking that one out.

You really put a lot of thought into that, and it shows. Good job.

Wow, you did it! *big smile*

Whew, that one used to be tricky, but it looks like you've mastered it.

Well done.

Slow down, I know you can do it.

It's okay. You gave it a good shot. We can try again tomorrow. How about we do...

You got farther today than you did before. Excellent.

Feels good to tackle a challenge, doesn't it?

And if it doesn't feel good to tackle a challenge? Well, then it's worth looking into why. That'll be different for everyone. I know when I'm not up for tackling a challenge, it's usually due to one of three things: I don't feel like I have the tools to tackle it; I don't have a clear idea of what, exactly, I'm supposed to do with it; I don't feel like I've got somebody in my corner on it. While I haven't done any official studies (and even if I had, I wouldn't be able to cite them because my organizational skills are deplorable), but my guess is that people often fear (or avoid...) taking on a challenge because of something very similar to that list.

The wonderful thing is that we can be a positive resource to eliminating those barriers. If we listen and provide presence and understanding, we can help them free themselves up to tackle the challenge, clear the hurdle, create the metaphor!

Be encouraged! (I added that bit tonight, but it seems appropriate)

~ Dy

Friday, May 26

"This Week's Plan"

Did I really say that? (I did. On May 18th, those words were committed to the internet.) Oh, that is so cute. So optimistic. So filled with... amnesia and wonder.

Baseboard Log, Day 7:

We. are. nowhere. NEAR. done. What optimistic fit or palsy made me think that was a one-week job? The dining room is 90% done. The living room is about 30% done. We've done one leg in the kitchen.

The den? It's done where there aren't book cases, which essentially means one corner that doesn't have a wall long enough for book cases... so that probably doesn't count.

Oh! And the hallway! I've done the hallway! And cleared the foyer... enough to see the bits that aren't done (also not terribly helpful).

Today, we did two doors, as well. We were on a roll. They're so pretty. But I'm considering just doing the doors and maybe letting the kids string garland around the rest of the baseboards? Glitter? Great Stuff?

So, there is progress, but the next time I refer to something as "this week's plan," someone ask me if I remember the last time I said that, OK?

Be encouraged! Or just laugh along with the rest of us!

~ Dy

Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering

Yes, it's time. Academics have been officially suspended (except for John's anatomy test, which he did, and then I think we decluttered it before he could turn it in - oops) and we are now in full-on Beast Mode on this house.

We have no duct tape. I don't know, exactly, how this happened, but it's true. (I suspect there are hand-crafted slippers or a wallet somewhere, lying beside an empty cardboard roll, but I can't prove it.)

We re-hung the dry erase board. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's been floating homelessly around the house ever since we bought the World's Best Couch two years ago. The World's Best Couch took up the space where both the previous couch and the desk/office area had been, and I took the board down because I didn't want people standing on the couch to draw on the board. Even with an extra wall, though (the one we built, which was triggered by the couch), we have little wall space (because I keep covering it with book shelves, I know, I'm sorry). But we found a spot, and yesterday, we made it official. I am so looking forward to not having to lift that thing up from wherever it's leaning so I can vacuum!

Em and Jase also finished getting the Big Blue 1 off of it yesterday. (I'd used it to hold a t-shirt for Jase's Animal Crossing cosplay so I could make sure the 1 was straight as I painted it on - but hadn't thought about the fact that spray paint would go straight through and stick to the board. D'oh! It's had a giant blue number 1 on it for a year as we have slowly, persistently, semi-diligently removed it.) So, for white boards, yesterday was pretty much a banner day.

We cleared out a few cabinets, too. We had four rolls of freezer paper, three of cling wrap, and a million brown paper bags. The freezer paper is Z. My mother never wanted to run out of Kleenex; Z never wants to run out of freezer paper. I get that. But I could not figure out what kind of crazy person would just tuck paper bags into random cabinets... WHY? Then I remembered, we used to use the paper bags to hold chips when we made them... Aaaandd, that I am the crazy person. I basically unearthed ten years of paper bag stuffing that I had done and forgotten about. Huh. Dementia is going to be a hoot with me. Anyway, there was massive headway in the cabinet department, but it's not terribly satisfying unless you look inside the cabinets. Which I may ask you to do if you come over.

Z and the boys finished the flood lights for the lower drive and installed a patio light beneath the balcony. People who arrive after dark no longer need arrive IN the dark. I'm so proud of us! All three of them are a bit stiff in the shoulders from working overhead for a few days, but the end results are worth it. Or at least Z thinks so. The boys haven't complained, either, and John did appreciate the light when he pulled in from work last night. Yay!

James is working on his piano piece for graduation. He won't practice without headphones, though, so I have no idea how it's coming along.

Jacob's getting stoked about Space Camp, Rocketry Camp, and Summer Intensive for ballet. That kid. He's a happy one.

I'm honestly just hoping and praying the graduation party is enjoyable for the guests and that we haven't trashed the house. That's my big goal. That, and I'm looking forward to taking the babies to the water park while they're here. And Big Springs Park, to feed the fish. And the Early Works Museum. And, and, and... I'm just very excited about having our nieces and nephews *here*! Woot!

Meanwhile, back to decluttering and painting...

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, May 25

College Orientation

James attended Orientation over the weekend. It was a two-day, high-energy, non-stop infopalooza. All good stuff. All things they need to know.

All things they've said at Admitted Student Day...

And the overnight campus visit...

And the Honors Orientation.

Wee!

I mentioned to Z that this was killing me. It's all on the website. It's all in the printed material. Whyyyyyy are they doing this? But then Z said something that put it all in perspective: maybe it's not just ours.

Maybe they need to hear it in different ways, at different times, for it to sink in. There IS a lot of information. And youth are not known (generally speaking) for their ability to internalize the process of filing information away so that they know where to find it when they need it. Plus, their entire world is upending all at once. That's disorienting enough.

The director of the events (he has an official title, but I can't remember it - very nice man, though) said that most people don't realize it's the same material, repackaged. He also said that in spite of the repetition and hammering, there will be students who say, "I didn't know we had free tutoring," or, "Nobody told me we have a career center."

I let that sink in for a moment, then told him I'd leave the student, but I was going to slip out for coffee. Then I promised not to call him to ask how I pay my bill.

Then I bookmarked the log in page for info. Because if I've learned anything in my decades on this Earth, it's "Don't trust yourself to remember anything. Write it down."

When I picked up James, he had notes. In his own handwriting. And he's referred to them a couple of times this week. I'll be honest with you, that gave me more encouragement than any grand plan or vision he could have come up with. I'm so proud!

Be encouraged! And take notes!

~ Dy

Wednesday, May 24

More Progress, and Food

Four days until the family arrives! A week and a half until graduation! I feel dazed. We've kind of done it. We've raised a decent, fairly wonderful human!

Today, we buy food! I love grocery day! We stuck to our budget, which means I was filled with gratitude the other morning that Z hadn't seasoned the rice in the pot when he made fried rice for the kids. That freed the leftovers (that hadn't gotten fried) to make sweet rice for them one morning. Granted, I didn't think about checking before I made the sweet rice... It could have gone down as one of the stranger meals Mom has offered them. Serendipity!

Just to keep things interesting, though, I did throw some leftover acorn squash into the egg bake yesterday morning. That sounded brilliant and delectable in my head, but it didn't work. The flavor was lovely and the texture was that of soggy bread. Not a great choice, but it did use up the last bits of leftover veggies!

We Kon Mari'd the snot out of our clothing yesterday. I now have nothing anywhere that doesn't fit, or that I do not love, except my Scout shirt (which is both too big and not that attractive, but that's fine, it does its job). Same with the older boys. Woohoo! The Littles will likely outgrow anything they own, whether they love it or not, in the next month, anyway. So I'm not worrying about them.

I tried to move on to books, thinking I could surely clear out one book case of books. But, no. That is not going to happen. I have shunted books out of here regularly for years, and yesterday I got a little stabby at the thought of parting with any that we still have left. Next up, though? Magazines! I am not a keeper of magazines, but my hoarder children are. They have 12 years of Boys' Life, Birds and Blooms, American Rifleman, Game Informer, and Alabama Living (our elec. co-op magazine - really? We keep those?) OUT! Time to go! That may net us an additional 10 square feet of living space!

Not sure what's next after that. Z and I are in negotiations about the ceiling. I want to paint the panels first, then install them and touch them up. He wants to get them up, then paint them. We view painting an in-place ceiling very differently. He doesn't think it's that big a deal. I, having painted this one twice already, and being familiar with how it plays out for me, would rather remove an already in-place ceiling in order to paint it on sawhorses. So. It'll be fun to see what we do. (I say "fun", but honestly, it's fear. My fear is that he'll agree to paint it in place, since it's not that big a deal - to him - but THEN, once it's up, he'll realize that he has a bazillion things to do, which he does, and expect to pass it off to me so he can get to the other things. He will not think this should be a problem, and I'll get stuck saying nassy werds while painting an in-place ceiling. Hence, the negotiations. Very important going in when you know you have different ideas of what's "not that big a deal". It's a marital life saver!)

And that's about it. It's raining, raining, raining, here. Everything is damp and muddy. All the leaves are a brilliant, clean, sparkly green. Through the windows, from the climate-controlled inside, it's gorgeous out there! (But I'm glad we'll be working indoors today.)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, May 22

Waiting Games and Schedules

We're in a holding pattern on the potential news, so I figured while we wait, we could at least hammer out the details on the coming months' schedules. I got about halfway through June. That was not impressive, at all, and there's not much I can do about it. But, hey, that's four weeks farther out than I had planned when I sat down, right?

We've got one week until the family starts arriving from out of town. We had two, but once they could sit down with their schedules, they realized they'd have to bump it up if they wanted to stay longer than just the weekend. We get that (boy, do we get it). If you're going to spend four days on the road, you want your actual visit to be equal to the drive time, if not longer. I'm glad they'll be able to stay long enough to get out and play around in North Alabama. It's a gorgeous area, and it's totally new to them, so that will be fun.

(I don't know if Z has filled them in yet on my plans to get them to help hang drywall and ceiling panels. Yes, that cuts into the "vacation" aspect, but tell me you wouldn't tap your 6'8" brother-in-law to help hoist ceiling panels if he were going to be around when you were working with them? Otherwise, we're stuck with my short self, with my poor depth perception and tiny dinosaur arms. This will be much better!)

Granny will get to see Jacob perform in the end-of-year performances for ballet, and they'll get to see the Space Academy graduation, as well as James' graduation ceremony. It hit me tonight, while thinking how special that will be for them to have her there, just how much we all miss out on in the family when we live so far apart. All of those special, but common, things kids do get lost in the white noise of having to do all your interacting on social media. We haven't seen our nieces and nephews play or perform or do service projects, at all. That's a little bittersweet. We're thankful for the social media that allows us to share photos and see videos, but how much better would it be to hug those sweet babies and kiss their little cheeks?

So the new plan, as given to the Littles during their bedtime liturgy, is that tomorrow is:

School
House prep

The plan for Tuesday is school and house prep.

The plan for the next fortnight is school and house prep.

Man, am I wishing we'd wrapped up school in April! Didn't see that coming.

If it gets too hairy (or harried) by Friday, we may drop school and instead study Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering. That sounds like a fascinating one-week intensive course, yes?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, May 21

Ketogenic Backpacking

So, Philmont released the 2017 trek menus. I printed them off and settled in with a highlighter and a glass of water to go through and see what I'd have to substitute in order to survive the week.

I took a quick look and promptly switched out my water for coffee, kicked off my shoes, popped open Chronometer, and settled in for a day-long task. Turns out that, with the exception of a meat stick at Breakfast on Day 1 and a couple of packets of chicken along the way, I'll have to substitute everything. All of it. Wow.

Honestly, the biggest surprise was how much of the food they provide has Aspartame in it (a regular appearance in the sports drinks they provide "for electrolytes"). I was ready for the carbs (that's a pretty standard backpacking approach), but not for that! If you've been a reader here for any length of time, you know how I feel about Aspartame. So, I'll be packing substitutes for John, and extras for anyone who will listen. I don't mind carrying extra, if it keeps the boys from ingesting that stuff. Blech.

Research on the web for keto backpacking ideas returns mostly forum threads filled with people extolling the OP with rather unsolicited advice on why they would never do that. (Which is, of course, entirely useless, but people don't ask themselves if what they're about to say is actually helpful for the person they're responding to. They say what they want to say, regardless of the information requested. I want to lament the decline of civilization, but I think there have been people who know what they know since the dawn of time. Nothing new, here.) It's still relatively unhelpful, though. I mean, if you are living in nutritional ketosis, and you want to go hiking, you're going to need to eat. And if you're doing it intentionally, then you likely have very good reasons for doing it, and you're asking for information that will help you do it well. Perhaps even pleasantly. Imagine.

I found a great Ketogenic Backpackers group on Facebook, and have been in a wonderful Keto group for a while (not for backpacking, but for nutritional support), so I've been fortunate to amass a wealth of ideas on how to do this. Hopefully, by posting them here, as well, we can make them available to others.

Some of my breakfast substitutions (I don't generally eat breakfast, but I'd rather have it on me and pass it off to a Scout than to be dying out there and wish I'd packed some!):

Powdered eggs, pre-cooked bacon, keto coffee (coffee, powdered heavy cream, powdered MCT oil - from here on out, just called "coffee")

Hard sausages, hard cheeses, bulletproof coffee

Powdered eggs with dehydrated veggies and meats (in a semblance of an omelet), coffee

Epic bar, coffee


Since we eat eggs almost every day, I doubt I'll get tired of this rotation over the course of 12 days.

I'm also working on lunch and dinner substitutions, which I'll share, as well. Then I'll plug in the data and make sure I'm giving myself about a 20% overage from my daily intake. I'll definitely need to up my fat -- I pulled on shorts this morning, went to button them, and realized they were already zipped and buttoned! So I probably ought to splurge on some new shorts, as well.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Saturday, May 20

Hiking. And Ticks.

In an effort not to embarrass myself in front of the Scouts, I'm going to try to hike daily this last month before we head West. (Have done what I could in preparation so far, but we've had school and ballet, and the woodland creatures Disney told me clean houses have not arrived - so either they lied, or I'm in line to be the evil stepmother. *shrug* Either way, nobody's cleaning the house if I'm on the trail.) I am so excited about this - not just Philmont, but getting out and hiking daily! However, I'm a little queasy about the ticks. This has been a bad year for them, and it's still early days.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this article about a bacteria the Lone Star tick carries that can cause an anaphylactic reaction to meat. Meat! This is apocalypse-level horror, folks. Many people chimed in on the thread when I'd posted it to Facebook, sharing their experiences with just that very thing. Blessedly, there is an OIT doctor in Atlanta who is familiar with it and will help patients monitor their reactions. It appears to abate with time and is not a life-long sentence. Still, I'd rather avoid that, if at all possible.

Of course, the very next day, JakeRabbit found a Lone Star tick on him. We've since found several more - and this, in spite of our high garlic intake and use of spray. GAH! I have a macabre collection of ticks taped to the fridge, now, each one named in honor of its last meal and dated. If we get sick, I'll send the relevant ticks in for testing. (Which reminds me, I may want to get a box or something for those before graduation. I doubt a dangling collection of dead animals makes for pleasant party decor past, say, Halloween. Gross.)

This week, a friend shared more information, this being Notes from the Southern Tier Lyme Support Conference. Please take a moment to read this article. This is good information. It's overwhelming and helpful.

Yesterday, another friend shared a book she's been using for years to help her family deal with Lyme disease. With so few doctors conversant in what Lyme looks like and how to address it, this looks like a fantastic resource to have on hand. Hopefully, the situation will improve with time and advocacy on the part of patients. Until then, you may want to check it out. (I don't recommend staying out of the woods - there's too much to be gained from time spent outside, and a life lived in fear is a life only partially lived. However, ain't a thing wrong with gearing up, learning everything we can, and living a life in knowledge and pro-active engagement. Still trying to pare that down to a snappy saying, but you get the point.)


So that's been fun. I hate ticks. But I do love nature, people, and this crazy life.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, May 19

Little Things

There are so many Little Things that make up day-to-day life, things we take for granted and assume a general knowledge about. Parenthood has a way of highlighting some of the more humorous (the things you never thought you'd have to spell out), or the more mortifying (love that parroting stage...), and each stage of parenting covers new aspects of those Little Things.

Today, we were talking about how the Graduation Party is really the first time your student is an adult at a party - he's the host, the greeter, has responsibilities of making sure to do the rounds and thank each guest for attending.

The kids have always been great about party prep and being gracious -- offering tea and refills, clearing places at the table, pitching in on the pre-party cleaning and set up. I hadn't given any thought to the fact that this would be his first time being "on" at a party. Usually once the guests arrive, the kids splinter off to go play Werewolf or The Resistance, into the meadow for airsoft, or up to the fire ring for a campfire. They do their thing. The kids are good hosts to other kids, but how does it look different for a young person to be a good host to other adults?

In a lot of ways, it's no different - you greet everyone, offer drinks, show them the food. If they're new, show them the Good Bathroom and give them a heads up about snakes by the creek (because both are just generally appreciated). But in some ways, it's very different. I realized we hadn't necessarily articulated the difference, but I'd like to.

In keeping with our mantra to "set them up to succeed," it makes sense to give a fledgling a heads up about some of the new bits, or more nuanced aspects of being the host. (This is brainstorming at its finest, here, so please feel free to add any you can think of, too!)

* Be on hand to greet people as they arrive and take an active role in getting them introduced.

* Spend intentional time visiting with each of the guests, more than just your buddies or peers.

* Accept help - if you're still setting something up, or finishing something in the kitchen when guests arrive, and they ask how they can help, give them something to do. They'll enjoy being able to participate, you'll have company while you work, and everything will be done sooner so you can all enjoy kicking back and visiting.

* Keep an eye out for guests who may feel uncomfortable, or who may not know others at the party. Introduce them around, bring up things they have in common with other guests as a topic of discussion to help them find their groove.

* Keep an eye on the food and drink - keep it full. There's something about abundance that creates a willingness to partake. People are far less likely to take some salad, or a beverage, if there's only a bit in the bowl or cooler. Make it easy for people to enjoy themselves by maintaining a sense that there is plenty and they are welcome to it.

* As guests leave, you really need to get up and see them off, personally. A bit more than a wave good-bye from your game of cards that children can pull off.

These are all pretty universally applicable to any hosted event. For the Grad, there's the added element of graciously receiving gifts and then remembering to mark down who gave you what so that your thank you notes are personal and clear.

And, of course, the actual writing of thank you notes.

...the mailing of thank you notes.

I need to buy stamps.

So, what are some of your favorite tips for young men and women as they make the transition from "kid" to "host"?

Thursday, May 18

Prepping the House

Ohhhh, are we back in the thick of it!

This week's plan is spiffing up the trim. (Have I mentioned that when we build a house it will have gunite walls and no trim? Still stand by that claim. Monolith architecture needs to experience a serious rise in popularity! Down with trim!) That said, fresh, lovely trim is very satisfying.

Pre-rehab, put up but never finished.

We got the trim up on the new wall, but never got it finished (stupid cancer). The rest of the house trim is a terrible combination of Learning Curve and Decades Old. Some spots have both! Wee!

So I put together a bin this week: the baseboard rehabilitation bin. It contains everything you'd need to fix up your baseboards.

* Sponge
* Hammer, trim nails, and nail set
* Stud finder
* Wood putty
* Sanding block
* Painter's caulk
* Painter's tape
* Paint brushes
* Paint
* Paper towels

The idea is that if you have half an hour (or 20 minutes, or even five minutes, I don't care), grab the bin, pick a bit of baseboard, and give it some love. If you only get it washed, nails set, and wood putty on before you need to go do something else, that's great. That's a lot farther ahead than we were ten minutes ago! Good job! With everything already together, there's no time spent gathering, which is huge. So far, we've had good success.

Rehabbed and lovely!
We're also cleaning the stairwell to the basement, getting that prepped for drywall and stain this weekend. I'm crazy excited to show you that once it's done. (Right now, I don't even want my family to look - nothing is attractive part way through the de-griming process. One friend described it as satisfying in a vacuum-lines-in-carpet meets pimple popping sort of way. She nailed it. *gag* And yet, very exciting.)

Also this week, we've prepped the front porch for patching the chipped concrete. Once that's done, we'll let it cure and hopefully get it painted before the party.

So, plenty to keep us busy this week!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, May 17

I Got Stumped, But for Good Reason

There was a job opening for a position that, if I were to describe my ideal job, would be this job. I'm afraid I would pretty much upend my entire lifestyle to get it, and ask my wonderful family to jump through flaming hoops to help me make it happen (of course, we phrase it differently, don't we? "We'll all be in this together," which sounds great, but the reality is that other than the money, it would all have been for me.) Still, dream job. Open now. That's hard to not at least gawk at on your way past.

It was so very tempting to apply, even though I don't meet a good many of the requirements. Several friends encouraged me to apply, citing that I do meet a good many of the requirements. I thought I would give it a try, but I needed some writing pieces to showcase for the application.

And that's when I got writer's block.

About eating! Food! Nutrition and healing!

Really?

Could there be any clearer sign that this is not the right time for me to be looking for another outside-the-home job? I didn't think so. I sat quietly and thought for a few days. No words came. I sat some more. Last night, I had peace about the whole thing. Do I still want the job? Oh, heavens, yes. I want a job doing what I love (talking to people about healing their bodies with nutrition), learning every day (staying up on the science and new developments), and traveling (we've discussed my bohemian tendencies and my struggle to give them the occasional healthy outlet - thank you, homeschooling and day trips). I want a job where I'm the dumbest person in the room and I can absorb the wisdom of those around me. I want to work in an industry that actually improves lives, creates health, supports healing.

But I already have a job very much like that, and it's a full-time job that deserves full-time attention. Although I'm graduating one this year, there's another one next year. He's pretty set, but he's not ready to be on his own. Another coming down the pike in four years. Those two Littles at the end? They still need to be introduced to authors and stories, to poems and songs. They are still learning the ins and outs of how to read deeply, how to organize their thoughts, how to share their ideas. They haven't had Logic yet! I can't move my focus away from them yet. They need me just as much now as the Bigs have needed me the last 12 years.

I will have other jobs, other opportunities, but they will not have other childhoods.

I'm glad I clued in before I put us smack in the middle of what truly would have turned out to be a 3-ring circus. (Not because people can't work from home and teach -- hundreds of thousands of us do that every year. This is wholly about me and my limitations, my abilities, and the importance of putting my resources where they're needed, when they're needed.) But it's a good thing. A good place to be.

Besides, we've got enough other irons in the fire right now. Potentially some big news on deck for the whole family (that's really good for the whole family!) Party plans, Summer schedules, Confirmation classes, and time enough to keep us busy.

Best case of writer's block, ever.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Friday, May 5

One Year Remission

Jase asked me a month or so ago, "How long will you be keto?" "Forever," I replied. He was a little surprised, as his nine-year-old mind had processed nutritional ketosis through a therapeutic lens, and he'd come to view it similarly to medicine or chemotherapy: it's something you do when you need it, and then when you're better,  you stop. So we talked about the value of healthy lifestyles and choices, about using the information available to make choices for your life. It makes sense when it comes to education - you pursue the best education you can, and when you find better options you make use of them. It makes sense when it comes to relationships, physical activity, and spiritual health. However, it's easy to forget that the same approach applies to nutrition. We had a good discussion.

The other day, Facebook cheerfully shared a "memory" with me. The image was of a post I'd made from the parking lot after the oncologist finally conceded to use the word "remission". (It's not as though I still had cancer and I'd coerced him into saying I didn't. He was just oddly reluctant to use that term. He'd say, "You're all clear," and, "You're good to go," and even, "There's nothing there. You're good." He did not want, however, to just say the one word I, personally, wanted to hear out of his mouth. I suspect he's had patients misinterpret the term, perhaps? Probably similar to knowing that there's a reason hair dryers have warnings not to use them in the tub. Something happened at some point, and now everybody has to watch what they say. However, I needed the psychological response of hearing the word, so that's the direction I dragged the conversation.)

One year.

Really? That's it? I feel like it was a lifetime ago. Considering I only just dealt two weeks ago with the active realization that it's been two years since diagnosis, this should not have been surprising. A quick recap of events bears it out. However, it's been two years of learning by immersion, by means of drinking from a fire hose; two years of integral study and application in tandem; two years of reading abstracts and papers, of compiling collected data and interpreting anecdotal content. Let's face it, it's been a very busy two years.

It also explains why this past year has been such a logistical nightmare for me to keep up with, mentally -- both because it really has been just-barely-over, and also because I have expected my mental function to be that of a 24 year old with only two children to keep track of instead of the 40-something year old with five children, one graduating, home renovations, and just-barely-post-chemo that I am. There you go, then. Poor perception and unrealistic expectations make for a weird year. They also make it feel a bit longer than a year.

Through it all, I've maintained a low-carb lifestyle and nutritional profile. I need to round up the material I used to come to the conclusions I did so that you'll understand why I am so enthusiastic about this. Why I encourage anyone to consider low-carb, fasting, hydration (always with the hydration), and supplementation when they're facing chemotherapy. It's not enough to offer anecdotes, from the oncology nurses who couldn't believe how few side effects I had, to the oncologist who was surprised to see how strong I was in spite of what the labs and scans revealed;  how my lipid profile has remained excellent in spite of a diet that flies firmly in the face of appropriate authority; how I'm stronger now, healthier now; how even getting dressed is literally effortless (a feat many take for granted), being down 50 pounds and agile as can be. It's not magic, or voodoo. A ketogenic diet can be a significant support to traditional cancer therapies.

This is so much a part of my daily study and interaction that I forget that it was a cancer diagnosis that drove me from Paleoesque into nutritional ketosis and a thorough understanding of what I'm asking of my body and how to treat it in the process. It would be good to share the processes that brought me to that point, and by it, through to the other side.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Tuesday, May 2

Repurposed Failure

I got a wild hair the other day and tried to make some keto peanut butter cups. I didn't pay attention to the chocolate recipe I was using and ended up adding exponentially too much coconut cream to the mixture. When I realized what I'd done, I added more unsweetened baking chocolate to try to offset it, but didn't really add enough (that would have made a lot of chocolate). They taste OK (needed more nut butter, actually), but they never set up properly. We've nibbled at them, but they are neither delicious nor satisfying, so, eh. Tonight, I was feeling bummed at the thought of wasting it when it hit me...

Can I put one in my coffee?

Why, yes! Yes, I can!

They will not go to waste, now.

I love coming up with solutions. Sometimes. Sometimes I am tired and do not want to think them up, but that's probably another blog post, entirely. What I really love is a little serendipitous brainstorm, especially when it involves chocolate and coffee!

Be encouraged!

~Dy

Monday, May 1

Wedding Attire and Projects

We've got a wedding this month! I'm so excited for the young couple - they're a great team, and I think they're in for being an unbeatable duo.

That said, now I've got to find something to wear. I tried browsing online for wedding fashion 2017 and it seems this year everyone's wearing slips and hankies. I'm... um... well, now I feel old. Also, I'm starting to understand old ladies and pant suits. Although that's not gonna happen this year, it does at least make a little sense. Give me a few more years and I might be buying celery green shoes and earrings to match my linen slacks. But I'm not ready to go there, yet. So, back to browsing for ideas.

The SpaceAppsChallenge sounds like it was really interesting. The competition was stiff, and the boys enjoyed working in a focused, fast-paced environment. Although their team did not win anything in the high school category, they came away from the experience with some good insight tucked into their belts and some good stories. James kind of wants to keep working on their project and get it working. Might be a fun Summer project.

It's time to get serious about the party planning and Summertime plans! WOOHOO! I'm actually rather excited about that.

Next up, beadboard ceilings? Maybe? The oak caterpillar-like debris has finally abated and the green pollen dust is down, so this might just be the year we get that ceiling in! It sounds like there's competition from the back porch, which also would be lovely. If we could magically get both done by graduation... Ohhh, I won't know what to do with myself other than have more company! Oh, my goodness, what will it be like to live in a finished house? *swoon*

Also, I desperately need a better system for time management. It's been cat herding central here, lately, but they're all large jungle cats and harder to herd than mere bobcats or Siamese. I'm flailing terribly. We clearly need more work and more projects - this tail end of the crew has no idea what it's like to DO things like the older kids did at the same age, and honestly, I don't think it's been for the better. So we're going to fix that. That's one nice thing about Life - if what you're doing isn't working, do something different. Figuring out what to do differently can be a bit of a challenge, but you can try one thing and if that doesn't work, try something else. (It sounds significantly less exhausting in print than it is in real life, I realize that. Still, it's exciting to know we aren't without options.)

And, that's about all I've got this lovely Monday morning. But it's good.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, April 30

Busy Days and Lazy Days, The Homeschooler's Schedule

A friend commented recently, "I love Almost-May! Everything is next year!" The rest of us laughed and nodded. In the homeschool calendar, that's pretty much it. August is, "Oh. We should probably start soon." September and October are mostly just happy sounds backed by cool weather and fresh books. November is, "Mmm, let's regroup and see what we can finish by December." January is just long, followed by February, which is "Wow, we should have looked more seriously into boarding school." March is another hopeful regrouping, "No, we can do this. Surely by August we'll have ironed out whatever-this-is-that's-tripping-us-up-right-now." (We won't - it's February that tripped us up. It happens every year.) That's followed by April, when everyone takes a deep breath, shoulders down, charge ahead, "We can do this! We're almost done!" Then comes May...

Next year, we're going to use the learning journals more regularly.

Next year, we're going to rock this time management plan I just found in the back of the bookshelf.

Next year, I'm hiring out as much as possible.

Next year, I'm going to do it all in-house, back to basics.

Next year, we're just going to subsist on water and museum memberships. It'll be FUN!

Even when we know better, there's a cathartic, comforting aspect to Next Year. It gets us through to June, which is the pay-off, the re-calibration, the re-centering:

"Huh. This was actually a pretty fantastic year. Look at you go! You learned a lot... I should probably give us all a little more credit next February."

It's good to know the rhythms of your year, lean in, embrace them. Come May, you can indulge in all the changes you're going to make Next Year!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, April 28

Flailing Across the Finish Line

So, y'all. Yesterday. Oh, my word. I was out cold on the couch with a good book by eight o'clock and that still wasn't early enough!

We had the pest control company out again yesterday to spray for fleas. Again. Still. Always. I suspect he's feeding them and has begun to think of us as his personal, off-site aquarium. When this contract is up, we're done. One year is ample time to get rid of fleas when you're working with a family that is all about the vacuuming and treating and keeping debris away from the house, setting light traps and not living like animals. Really? If that's not enough support for the flea treatments to get rid of these bad boys, then we need to consider contacting the CDC or just fire bombing the house and moving.

Also, although I do enjoy a clean house, we're all a little tired of stacking all our belongings atop the furniture every couple of weeks. It's to clear the floor so he can get everything, but it feels like a weird religious ritual at this point, and it's clearly not appeasing the blood gods, or whoever its meant to appease.

Ballroom was canceled for the older boys (their instructor had surgery and wasn't quite recovered yet), and that meant that there were seven of us to hustle out of the house instead of five. We decided we'd take the cars to the car wash and give them a thorough debriding. That's always good for an hour and a half, plus it's quite a workout.

We hit Mike's Merchandise, which is sort of a random overstock, discontinued, slightly-damaged things outlet. Also good for another hour and a half. Then we stopped in at John's work for ice cream and to visit with his coworkers. (I don't know if they appreciated that, but they're very kind. It's a good group of kids who work there. And the owner is a joy.) That gave enough time for the boys to head to class and the rest of us to start hauling Jacob to ballet.

Jacob had gotten up early and thrown in a load of wash (which, when you're 13, is pretty danged insightful). Unfortunately, it was a load he neeeeded for ballet that day. And we had to evacuate the house an hour before the wash would be done (which, when you're 13, you just don't think about timing - heck, at forty-something, I still get sideswiped by timing - it happens). We had scrambled a new plan that would allow us to give the treatment the maximum time to dry while allowing us to slip in and grab the clothes from the machine on our way to ballet. It was a brilliant plan.

Except that the water inlet valve on the washing machine died (a hero's death, truly) while we were out of the house. We came home to a washing machine full of water, a flooded basement, and wet clothes for ballet. The machine started spraying water into the hallway when Jacob opened the door.

If you've ever wondered if you can dry clothes on your way somewhere by holding them out the window as you drive, you can. It's a little awkward, particularly as you get into town, but if your drive is long enough it works surprisingly well.

Unfortunately, we were late for his first class. About a mile from the school, he realized that in the upheaval of finding buckets and towels and ringing out the wet clothes, he'd forgotten his bag. Bag has shoes. You can't attend class without your shoes. So we turned around and headed home. He was so sweet about the whole thing, and he really wanted to make his second class (he missed last week because he had a concussion). We decided to see what time it was when we pulled up and make the call from there.

Hey, we can make it! (I may have cried a little. Not from joy. He was joyful. I was tired. It's a 40 minute drive each way.) He grabbed his bag and we headed back out. I tagged Z to pick him up after class, dropped him off, and headed back to the house, where we finished dealing with the washer mess, vacuumed the couch and the rooms, made dinner, and read. *poof* Out cold.

I ordered some Fleabusters RX from Amazon and am considering installing misters filled with it throughout the house at ankle level to keep people from tracking fleas from one room to the next. I ordered a new inlet valve from Amazon and briefly considered checking to see if I could put it on Subscribe and Save. (The earliest we could get it in is May 2. Why is there not overnight shipping available for things like washing machine parts? If you see us at any point over the next week, please remember this is a mechanical failure not a lifestyle choice.)

Today, I've no idea what we're going to do, but I truly hope it doesn't involve driving. Or bugs.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, April 26

Anniversaries

I've never been good about remembering significant dates. Birthdays, anniversaries, even some of the major holidays... they sneak up on me. It's not that I don't care about people. It's all dates, even mine. A few years ago, Z and I spent an entire day doing our thing - he took the Aunts out visiting museums, I had one of the Littles with me, painting the house. Sometime in the evening, I checked my phone for something and saw the calendar: Happy Anniversary. Oh. Hey Babe, it's our anniversary. Love you.

But it's not just the happy dates that I can't remember. The more somber dates? Oy. No clue. I'm not callous, or uncaring. I remember the sorrow, feel the loss, mourn with those who do remember, who do observe individual days of loss. But the specific days don't linger in my mind. They don't become anchor points or mile stones that point to the passage of time. I don't know, for instance, off the top of my head, when my parents died, when I lost a baby, when bad things happened... I know they did. They were awful. But the dates don't stick. (I recognize that this is different than so many people I love and cherish, and mentioned to Z once that I worried about it. He suggested that it's probably a relatively healthy mechanism that's kept me from losing my mind - there was a lot of death in my life, growing up. I love him for that perspective.)

So it came as a bit of a surprise tonight, as we shared a little of our backstories in a group I'm in (lots of new members, and it's always easier to know how to support or encourage someone if you know where they're coming from and what their goals are, so we did a short introduction thread), and it hit me that it's been almost exactly two years since I first heard the doctor say, It's cancer. And that hit hard, which was weird.

Two years, with 15 months in remission. I give thanks for that every day. But I don't remember the day.

Only six months of chemo. Special thanks for that - that it's available, and that it wasn't longer. But I don't remember the dates.

The port still irritates me and catches on things, but I'm clumsy at the best of times, and I still maintain that is one brilliant invention. But I couldn't tell you when I had it put in.

Getting dressed yesterday, I was taken aback by how easily my body moves and does what I ask it to. I gave thanks. But I don't know when it had stopped, or when it started again.

Tonight, recalling dates as I tried to reconstruct a timeline, it just struck a resonant chord when I realized we are right at the scene of Z and I sitting at the restaurant, quietly eating while we processed the news.

"I don't want cancer. This is stupid," I muttered. Like I'm six and someone has made beans and cornbread, right? But we respond the way we respond. A friend of mine, upon being told she had cancer, replied, "Oh, no. You must be mistaken. In my family, we get heart disease." God love her, I get it. The human brain is one of the most magnificent mysteries in all creation.

And I realize it may come back.

A dear pastor here in town is fighting a recurrence of it right now.

The kids' godmother is fighting it right now.

Friends' kids, nephews, parents, friends... all fighting. Right now.

I won't remember specific dates. But I will be right there, to celebrate, to mourn, to rage, or just be there. Because in the end, that's the part that really matters.

Just as it's the life lived between anniversaries that makes the marriage, more than the mile marker we pass each lap around the sun.

But to someone who lives like this, it's still weird to pass one of the more somber ones and recognize it on the way by.

However you note, or forget, dates, remember to let the ones you love know you love them -- so if you forget an anniversary, they won't think you've forgotten them.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, April 22

Always With The Tone of Surprise

I am so in love with this house right now.

I am in love with it every time we do a deep clean and a general decluttering.

And I am caught completely off guard every time.

This really is the perfect home for a small family with a few big toys and a ton of books. It's really working hard to hold a medium-sized family with a billion divergent interests and a ton of books. It pulls it off, but with time the debris accumulates higher and higher, eventually eradicating the very things we love about it (the open spaces, the natural light, the outside room to roam). Twice a year, we double down on knocking it back, and twice a year I am in awe of what a truly adorable little place this is.

I kind of hope the kids will one day pool their resources and get me a cleaning service for a year as a Christmas or birthday gift. Actually, now that I think of it, I'm totally putting that in my Amazon wish list. Of course, that'll probably be when they decide to get the "Come Back With A Warrant" mat, which wouldn't be nearly as funny when I'm 80 and no longer homeschooling... Or maybe it would? Hmm.

We all have terrible Spring Fever right now. This is normally when we'd dial back the academics and go play before it gets hot, but they all have outside classes this Spring, and those run on a traditional school schedule... so we're stuck, and getting twitchy. We want to go somewhere and do something! The South is a gorgeous place in the Spring. There's something to love about every place, and at least one season to love about it. Spring and Fall here are pretty fantastic.

And now, I must awaken the Kraken and make them air out their lairs. The last step in the process! (Also, notably, one of my favorites! I love a freshly aired lair!)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, April 21

Just Like Snow White

Except I'm not cleaning. Or singing.

Jase picked these. No clue what they are, but he had fun putting them in.
But the doors are open, the birds are singing, and it is gorgeous! I could probably whip up some dancing. We're smack in one of my favorite parts of the year - where the days aren't terribly hot, the mornings are still cool and breezy, and the mosquitoes don't come out this early yet.

That cat, however, is not my favorite right now. Several of our screens bear the mark of his wrath (or perhaps general displeasure) and I'm pretty sure the bugs will find those very spots every time we try to open the windows this year.

The Littles (still thinking up a good moniker for them - they've requested something else) and I went to the market yesterday and picked out some plants for the earth boxes. We didn't go in with a plan other than Find Something That Makes You Smile. They did.

Hibiscus! Em was absolutely smitten with the blooms, so we got one that has a ton of buds. I'm guessing it won't be able to live in this box long-term, but it'll be lovely here in the meantime. (We're getting mulch. It's a work in progress.)

Zorak is home today, which means the time-honored plan of Not Doing School. Of course, it's also going to be a day that somewhat violates the spirit of that plan -- they're not going to spend the day "hanging out with Dad", but rather, "working outside with Dad". All time well spent, though, so there is that, right? Plus, they get to sleep in. Nobody really complains. Much.

May is coming! None of us is looking forward to the heat, but the kids are starting to get antsy - finals week at the college is the first week of May, the water park opens the end of May, anatomy class ends in May, kayak weather... more time for hiking... so many good things are coming. They're ready.

I just need to get through this weekend and present a hospitable venue for the cookout. Then I can relax and look forward to the good things, too. If I lose focus between now and Sunday, though, it's likely to turn into a, "Hey, can you help us lug this wood to the bonfire and get the clothes off the line?" party. That wouldn't be fun for anyone.

I hear rustling and ambling. I've camped out near the watering hole (coffee pot) so I'll be sure to catch people as they awake. Time to get my Snow White on and whip this place into inviting shape! (Although, yes, I realize the visual is more reminiscent of Marlon Perkins than Snow White. That's probably a more accurate visualization all the way around, but I don't want to think up a new intro.)

This needs something else, but we're waiting for inspiration. Native, volunteer ferns, though. They look almost intentional!
 Be encouraged!
~ Dy

13 is Hard

It just is. Everything grows at odd angles and nothing works right. The brain is fueled mostly by brilliant ideas and good intentions. There's a lot you don't know yet, but you're pretty sure you do. I get it. It's hard. I have empathy for 13 year olds everywhere.

But I also have a whole lot of sympathy for the mothers of 13 year olds.

Dear heaven, give us peace. 
Block our nostrils and our ears 
so that we may see the beauty in the discovery 
over the stink in the bedroom or the snarl of the reply. 

Help us teach them how to bend without breaking, 
and forgive us for occasionally thinking 
that maybe breaking them wouldn't be such a bad thing. 

Grant us the ability to really hear the jokes they tell, 
and really listen to the things they share. 
Help us remember that our sweet babies are still in there, 
trapped by the hormones and oil, 
wanting to be loved and appreciated. 

Help us appreciate them.

Also, Lord, help me not lose my tihs when he hasn't done his laundry again, slept in, and yet managed to grab coffee and slip down to the basement while I was in the shower. Again. He's a good kid. He's not burying bodies or building bombs down there, and for that, I am truly grateful. But that laundry's gotta get done...

Be encouraged (if only in knowing you're not alone, or that it could be worse, whichever fits)!

~ Dy

Thursday, April 20

More Spring Cleaning, Outdoors

Y'all, take your garlic. It is tick season, and it is yard work and hiking season. (OK, it's always tick season, but that doesn't matter so much when it's too cold and you're inside. But NOW, it's nice out. You want to get out and enjoy it, but you don't want ticks. Nobody wants ticks. Take your garlic.)

Yesterday, it didn't rain so we mowed and weedwhacked and weeded and mulched. (And this morning I realized I haven't been taking my garlic. See? Learn from my mistakes, folks.) This place is really cute when it's tidy! Oh, my gosh!

We cleared off the balcony and cleaned out the earth boxes. Jase asked if we could keep the ferns that have sprouted in one of them... I tried not to be too discomfited by the idea that it took actual airborne spores floating up that way for them to grow there (I could be a real mess if I thought too much about what's in the air most of the time). The ferns are pretty, though, so why not? We're likely not gardening this year, so we'll at least go get some lovely plants for the earth boxes on the balcony and make it look like we decorate once in a while.

I think only two of my Pieris Mountain Snows died! That's so exciting! One died early on in the fall because people kept dropping shovels, buckets, and bicycles on it. Understandable that it didn't survive. But then the other five just up and DIED over the spring. I was crushed. Three cheers for procrastination, though! (Hip, hip, hurrah!) I never got around to pulling them up and taking them to Nick (my plant guy) to find out what happened, and this week four of them greened back up and revived like you wouldn't believe. It's so exciting! I'm going to put a big bushy plant where people drop things - maybe they'll stop, then. (If that doesn't work, I'll try a pokey, mean plant. And if that doesn't work, I'm going to have to put down sand and pavers and just consider it a landing pad - but it's right beside the front steps, so I'll be honest, I don't wanna.)

We really do need to make a new roof happen this year. Eek. That much became painfully obvious once we got the rest of the yard and structures tidied up. (I'm kidding. We knew it was bad, but now it actually looks as bad as it is.) I wonder if the boys will enjoy roofing? Honestly, I do. Not so much the edges, which are terrifying, but it's a very satisfying thing to have a clean, fresh roof, with good underlayment and straight lines.

Our book club finished The Screwtape Letters yesterday. Finally. It's an incredible book, but this was a rough few months for the club -- with illnesses, travel, work schedules, and the insanity of my unpaid long haul gig (how I'm thinking of Jacob's ballet schedule, now), we had very few weeks where everyone could make it. We've picked the next book - The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, Since we have such an ecumenical group, I am really excited about some of the discussions we'll have over this. Do you have people in your life you can disagree with and argue with over a cup of tea? I hope so! It's a beautiful thing!

Z's on a weird one-day jaunt for work. He left before the sun was up, and he'll be back tonight. I want to remember to have dinner ready when he gets home. Of course, that's ten hours from now... should probably set a reminder. What's your favorite Welcome Home meal? Do you have one?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Tuesday, April 18

*whine* It's SO HOT, but Good News!

Don't tell the kids I said that. When they complain that it's 80, I remind them that in August we'll be begging for an 80-degree day. And it's true. (Also, by October, I won't be able to force them outside if it's 70 because it'll be "too cold". So.) But still... once the humidity starts creeping in, it's just gross.

We've been culling the outgrown winter gear so there's less to stash over the summer. Wow, that's bittersweet. However, the foyer is looking fantastic! Also, now that we've stored all the hats, scarves, and random gloves, we've found a ton of flashlights and headlamps! The foyer also looks vaguely like a staging platform for night raids.

There's a cookout here at the house in the next week, and we want to have it tidied. Spring cleaning, if you will. Or, Spring Hey Let's Finish A Couple of Projects Because 12 Years Is A Bit Long To Be "Renovating" A House Cleaning. Things we did first are about due to be redone, you know? But life... it gets in the way of plans.

Speaking of life... James got notified today that he's been accepted into the Honors College at UAH. That was a huge boost. It's been a long, weird year, and things just kept crumbling at the last minute. He was pretty sure this was another one for the pile. (To be fair, they send the notification in a very nondescript envelope, and he didn't want to open it, thinking it was a "Thanks, but no thanks" letter.) I'm glad he opened it. Better yet, he's glad he opened it! Now we just need to find enough money to cover housing...

John brought his ACT composite up four points! That was huge! I am so proud of him. He's taking a break while he works on his Eagle project and gets his crew ready for Philmont.

Philmont plans are coming along. We need to hike more, and John and I both are looking forward to doing that as soon as we buy a little wiggle room on the house/property work. I'm trying to work more, to cover the various gaping wounds in the checking account. Not so much looking forward to that, but thankful for it, and appreciative of it. Sometimes, that's gotta be enough. Sometimes, it's more than enough.

Be encouraged!

~Dy


Saturday, April 15

Headway!

So, we got the doors in and all was well. Then the blinds just conked out in one of the doors. We followed the instructions on how to fix them if they break, but evidently something... else broke. It didn't work. Today, Z called Jeld-Wen to find out what our options are, and they'll be sending someone out to replace the dorked up bit, themselves. Mad love for Jeld-Wen right now, I've gotta say. (Because if they'd said, "Sure, just bring the whole unit back and we'll replace it," I might have cried, cussed, and curled up in a ball. Bless them for not doing that.)

Meanwhile, the boys and I painted the background for the basement wall.


Then, this afternoon, the kids decorated it up. I haven't been down this evening, but just before I headed up to get ready for church, it was looking pretty fun.


We're definitely going to have to raise the bar on the rest of the decor so the whole place doesn't look like a back alley in the midst of a gang war. (The Russian is a nice touch, though. Heh.) Aaannndd, do something about that couch. The wall isn't doing it any favors. So, projects lined up. That'll give us something to do this summer.

All in all, it's been a fun project. The kids all joined in with their own ideas and experiments. Z and I even put a few tidbits on there. They'll enjoy it for a while, and when they're done (or when we need to sell the house), a layer of Kilz and it's a fresh slate.

Tonight, we attended Good Friday service. The service focused on praying through the stations of the cross. I'm thankful for waterproof mascara, humbled by how little I know, and encouraged by how much there is to learn. Also? My youngest children have no concept of how to be still. Just still. Even the shushing brought noise in reply. What on earth? It was like worshiping between Heckle and Jeckle. So. We've gotta work on that. The congregation is great, and nobody shot us the hairy eyeball or anything, but it's just not good for your spirit if you can't hush up and just contemplate once in a while!

This is the last weekend to prep the house before the cookout for the models and photographers next week. I'm a little nervous, wondering what we were thinking - there's no way this place is going to be Lovely by then - but it is Better, and that's a good thing. Fortunately, the bulk of hospitality is creating a space where guests feel welcome and at ease. I think we don't stink at that, at least. So although, as I told a friend this morning, we aren't good at Martha Stewart style hospitality, we'll play to our strengths and feed them well.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, April 13

The Push

Well, "the push" turned out to be more driving. Blergh. But all the kids' teeth are now up to snuff, and John's had a consult with a new oral surgeon. I'm not entirely sure how it's Thursday again, but there you have it.

We did get the wall cleaned and rinsed. The kids have decided to paint the load panel, too, since it's proud of the wall and incredibly ugly. Seems sane.

We've peeled another large swath off the basement couch. Our first "real" -- as in, new, not off the classifieds, only ours, bought with cash and straight from the store -- sofa was an Ashley sleeper sofa that we loved and loved... for about two years, until the cushions gave up, the upholstery started cracking and peeling and we realized Ashley doesn't count that as a defect in materials or workmanship. Actually, they seem to think of it as a perk. I don't know. Weird business model, but whatever. We bought a replacement that we love off Craigslist and demoted the poorly made Ashley to the basement. But it was kind of gross, and we weren't sure what to do with a couch that wasn't appealing, and wasn't in particularly "good" shape, but wasn't legitimately trash, either. We are loathe to throw away things that still have utility (which explains so much, really)... In a fit of creative implosion, I decided that we would just peel the rest of the material off and paint it! (Thanks, Pinterest!) That was two years ago. Turns out, it takes a lot of focus and determination to peel bonded fabric completely off a 6' couch... The kids pick at it while they're playing video games. Every once in a while, I'd muster up the umpf to go down there and just work on the couch, but the basement heebed me out and I couldn't stay down there too long without succumbing to the overwhelming urge to toss everything out and set it on fire.

Anyway, it's almost to the point that we can paint it. Probably a summer project. If it doesn't work, then we'll buy a slipcover for it. But if it does work? We'll have a weatherproof party couch! How cool is that? So many of my ideas could be incredibly fun and delightful finished projects, or they could be four cinder blocks away from the neighbors telling their children not to go over onto that property. I never really know until we've tried. But I have to try.

Speaking of neighbors, we have new ones. They've been busy trimming trees and clearing the property of debris. The kids heard someone in the bushes, whistling to the birds. And one of them waved back as we both pulled out of our drives the other morning. So, I'm hopeful they'll be good neighbors and will think of us as good neighbors. We need to make something and go welcome them.

We're in a bit of a lull with the kids' things. Jacob is back to Just Ballet Class, no rehearsals, and we're all appreciative of getting three extra days back during the week. John's waiting on the ACT scores to be released, but we've tweaked the plan for the next test in the meantime (no more prep, lots more reading, more books, more words, and, uh, keep plugging away at the math). James is in a holding pattern on future plans and trying to figure out how to get enough sleep without just sleeping from midnight to noon. (It's tricky. I get it.) And the Littles - they are great. They're biking and making movies, crafting and making food, all with a nonstop background chatter in voice for characters they've made up. We don't get it, but we love it.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy