Sunday, January 29

We Cannot Do Everything

That sounds so trite. I know. But here it is, Sunday, and I'll tell you, I am dragging. Dragging more than the schedule would indicate makes sense. But I think maybe I've reached the limit of my contortions and we're going to have to scale something back. (As I write that, I am reminded that I have a meeting Wednesday to see if I can help with the back end of a project coming up... hmm... probably should have written this post last week. Someone get me a Time-Turner! Or a virtual assistant!)

James and I headed out of town yesterday for a photo shoot. That was a fantastic experience. Not just the shoot, but the whole road trip. I so enjoy spending time with him, and when we're on the road (and nobody's doing Zombie Rainbow Dash impressions in the second row, so it's quiet), we have time to just talk. Laugh. Ponder. He's a neat young man, and I'm glad to know him.

This afternoon, the boys went to their Godparents' with Z to split and stack wood for the house. I love that when we mentioned the need, they all said, "When do you wanna go?" This wasn't on my radar when I was pregnant with any of them, but if I'd thought about it, it's one of the traits I'd have prayed for for each one. Lord, make them generous in spirit and willing to work. ( Now, I pray, "Lord, thank you for thinking of that when I was too young and scared to think beyond, 'Please let them be OK'!")

When the rest of us got home, I turned the Littles loose to play video games for a bit and I worked on the menu, the lesson plans, social media, work, and chatting with a cousin. That was lovely. No clue how to make our weeks less draining yet, but hopefully inspiration will strike soon. If not, there are a few episodes of Doc Martin left, and I have fuzzy socks!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, January 26

Packing Lists and Trekking Plans

I got a belated Christmas surprise this week: 

I'm going to Philmont with the boys this summer! 

Oh, how I wish I had a stash of gifs to put right here! (Picture dance gifs and confetti. Maybe even music.)

This is my one chance to go. James has aged out without ever a whisper of a desire to spend that much time outside. Jacob is only waiting for John to earn his Eagle and then he wants to switch to Civil Air Patrol. This is it. This is the Big Opportunity! I'm so excited!

And my gear is all about 30 years old...

Well, then.

At the meeting this week, we got to check out some fun options the others on the crew are adding to their stashes. It is astounding to see how much backcountry technology has improved in the last... few years. (😉 Few decades. Something like that.) 

John and I decided we would be best off marking our top priorities from the packing list, then buying one item each payday, starting with the Most Wanted. So I'm going to add things as we find them. If you have a favorite backpacking item you'd like to share, post it in the comments below! We'd love to see what you love on the trail!

Be encouraged!


Wednesday, January 25

Opportunity Costs

So this was weird...

James seems to be zeroing in on the college he wants to go to. It's entirely his choice, and I think he's putting some good thought into his choice. He's leaning toward the one that's probably the best fit for him.

And now I find myself fretting over the ones he isn't leaning toward. (But, this campus is lovely! And that Physics program is amazing! But what about... But this one has... But, but but...) Which feels very dumb, and vaguely like I'm upset about his choice, which I'm not.

So what IS that?

It's fear. It's the Very Real Application of the concept of Opportunity Cost, and while it's not a Big Hairy Fear, I still don't like it. It's uncomfortable.

I've faced it before -- I got married (if you marry this one person, that means that none of the other people out there who are very good people can be your spouse), and that didn't bother me. I bought a house (and goodness knows that's a bit more of a commitment than picking a college... *raised eyebrow*). I choose grocery items and hair color, vehicles and clothing, doctors and medical choices... regularly, and with some skill. Why the difference here?

So I asked some trusted friends if they thought perhaps I am losing my mind. They've both got children out there, studying outside the nest, doing new things. They're about 10 klicks ahead of me on this particular journey. Both responded with a resounding, "Totally normal." It turns out, this is, in fact normal. We don't know why.

Perhaps it's because we dream larger than life for our children. We want to offer them the best of everything, and we don't want to limit them. We spend the bulk of two decades trying to cobble together opportunities and weave them into an Anything is Possible array for them. After that kind of lifestyle, we spend time looking at colleges and seeing some pretty fantastic things here and there... and then ask them to limit the the next few years of their lives by picking Just One. It feels like shutting doors. Well, it is shutting doors, but that's not a bad thing. You can't move forward if you don't pick a door and go through it.

(Worse, though, if you're a child of the 80's, it starts to feel like they probably just picked the door with the worn out mule behind it.)

But they're not just guessing. (I mean, some of it may be guessing, but at least in our house, I'm hearing enough thoughtful conversation to be reassured that it's not entirely guesswork. And that's enough. I'm happy. A lot of life is at least partially guesswork, anyway, so welcome to the club, Kids!)

I think he'll thrive there. I think, too, that I'll be fine with the Opportunity Costs, and that I will eventually get a handle on not fretting over all the things he's not doing while he's busy doing something he is immersed in. (The feedback from the 10-klicks-ahead crew indicates that yes, this is trueish.)

If he gets there and has a serious Gob moment ("I've made a huge mistake"), then he can change direction and shift gears. He'll figure it out. My part is not to let the fear that creeps in now take over my mouth when he actually needs my input. So. That's my assignment for now.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 22

Getting Ready

The Alabama Fashion Alliance is gearing up for the 6th Annual Fashion Week Alabama, and it is really amazing to see this come together. They have national award-winning designers, emerging local designers, as well as some uniquely Southern fashion resources participating. The models put in several hours of good, focused work today, and they are looking great. The photographers involved are truly phenomenal. (Yes, that sounds like an ad. It's not. I do not know what it takes to have the vision and creativity that brings this together, but I'm tickled to see it all happen. If I weren't behind the scenes -- mostly just offering to carry things and trying to stay out of the way -- I'd swear it was magic.) It's not. It's like most successful things: it happens because of hard work and a willingness to work together, to learn, to share ideas and effort. But the end result looks a lot like magic.

Both of the boys will be walking that week, so we were there for the duration today. And probably will be for quite a lot of the time in the coming months. If nothing else, spending hours on end around models and photographers is good for my posture, right?

We let out to find we were in the midst of a crazy storm. Flood warning. People cruising down the highway doing 30mph, just flying past everyone else doing 20mph with hazards on. All of the overpasses were packed with cars beneath them, hoping to wait it out. We slunk on home only to find the drive is flooded. I decided to risk it (which I would normally never, ever encourage anyone to do -- but it was less than 6" deep going over the drive and I figured that was as shallow as it was likely to be until tomorrow). We made it and are tucked safely inside. I did immediately alert John, though, as he is at work and may need to spend the night elsewhere. Wee! Winter in the South, y'all!

And that's about it. I'm going to curl up with a good book or two and a cup of coffee and wait to see what the plan will be.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, January 21

Great Scott!

I feel the way Doc Brown looks. Thursdays are hard, y'all. And yes, I know it's Saturday. THAT'S how hard Thursdays are! But we made it. We're good to go. We weren't even late to things. The boys and I have a seminar at church to get to this morning, and I do believe I'mma let someone else drive. *yawn*

The college fair was interesting. There were about 30 schools there, and just enough students to keep them busy, but not so many that it became automated and uncomfortable. We met up with some friends and let the boys go talk and meander. I think the boys all came away with good information and some ideas to dive into. At one point, one of my children decided he'd like a school with a culinary arts program and a rifle team. *insert long, uncomfortable pause, here* (Z says it sounds like he's fixing to be a cook in the Navy.) We talked a bit later (because let's face it, that sounds like an odd combination - I thought perhaps I might be missing something), and it turns out he had just panicked. It happens. His brother, our science/technology/programming/all-things-automated Spock child, once told the head of the computer science department that he was going to major in Psychology. When asked later, he said, "I don't know. I panicked." It's good to get it out now, instead of later, when you're filing paperwork.

And then we've gone and gone and gone. Game day and ballet and ballroom and ballet and so. much. driving. Em was scandalized when she heard me tell Jacob the other night that he needed to find a girlfriend with a driver's license. (She thinks it's funny when Z says absurd things, but from me, she expects reason and Good Advice. I may have done something wrong, here.)

Jacob's entire educational plan is on hold for two or three weeks while he spools up on his new schedule. Blessedly, he's a reader, so he's still plugging along with books. That makes me hyperventilate a little less. And his posture is already improving, which is like having two months of physical therapy thrown in as an added bonus. Other than that, though, he pretty much eats and sleeps. Growing is hard work. He's doing a fine job.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 18

College Fairs and Do Overs

There's a college fair in town today. John and I are going to go check it out. We went two years ago, but he was a Freshman that year. (We went for James, and John got to hang out with his buddy, who was a Junior. I'm pretty sure the parents got the most out of that one, just by standing back and observing.) I am, however, hopeful that this year he'll get more out of it, and maybe get excited about visiting schools.

I really hope I'm doing this right. You want your children to be happy. You want them to challenge themselves. You want them to have a life filled with good work and strong connections. You want them to be all they can be (in the Army, or in civilian life - although kudos to the Army's marketing team for absolutely owning a phrase for all eternity. Well played, my friends. Well played.)

But where's the line between pushing them too hard and, say, encouraging them to punt? How do you nurture their passions without neglecting Something Really Important That You Didn't Think About? And how do you make sure you're not squashing their inner momentum with what you perceive to be Good Advice? What's the best way to encourage-but-not-badger? And do they need to be badgered sometimes? And how big of a badger do you need to use?

Sadly, these are just variations on the same questions I've been asking for 18 years. I'm no closer to the answers. (Although during one conversation, one of the kids did say, "Sometimes, I need to be nagged. I'm sorry, but it's true." So, yay for honesty?) All I have are some moderately successful ideas, some "Yeah, never do that" ideas (and, of course, the caveat there is "never do that for that particular child", because the next child may very well respond quite well to whatever broke the previous one). The learning curve is steep and... curvy.

But then, James and I were talking about do-overs the other day. He's got a few he'd like to take. I've got a few (or... more than a few...) I'd like to take. He asked some pretty direct questions about what kind of do-overs I had in mind if I could go back and try again with him. (There was definitely a kind of, "Whoa, whoa, whoa there. What kind of craziness might I have dodged?" feel to the line of questioning. It made me laugh.) Turns out, he liked his childhood. He appreciates his education. He loves his life. He encouraged me to just leave it alone if I do get the chance to go back and change things.

To be truthful, I probably wouldn't leave it alone. I would be gentler when I was tired. I would spend more time doing art and making messes. I would be far less fearful. I would be more fun. I would heed Good Advice when it was handed to me. But don't tell him that, please. He's happy, and I'm so, so glad.

Be encouraged!


Tuesday, January 17


So, early morning ballet class is a bad idea. Should've seen that coming. But I got a few miles in before the rain came, and Jacob had a good class. Plus, there is joy in Alabama, now. I present to you:

YES! We now have Circle K. More importantly, we now have Circle K coffee.

The other day, we were cruising down the Parkway and I saw there'd been changes to the Kangaroo (a local convenience store/gas station chain). I saw the sign. I saw the circle. My mind, however, was scrambling to process what this meant. (With many stores being fairly regional, you grow accustomed to the ones in your area. And to the absence of the ones from other areas.) This beauty hails from Arizona. I haven't seen one in years and years. Cognitively, it was like seeing a Rainbow Foods grocery or a Kings grocery. Or maybe even a Brontosaurus. Here.


That was enough to salvage the morning. And perhaps every early morning in town from here on out.

Be encouraged!


Monday, January 16

The Quiet

While all the teens were out of the house, I had a chance to do a Big Clean. I'm talking buying-organizing-things-and-fresh-kitchen-towels, culling-debris-and-old-socks, get-the-outsides-of-the-windows clean. It was glorious. Having a tidy home might stave off empty nest syndrome for a good six months. I love my kids, and I do miss them when they're gone, but there are just so many of us, with such diverse interests, packed into a tiny home. Serious 21st Century Family in a 19th Century Settlement. I'm thankful, I am. But it's refreshing to me when our home feels *nice* and not just *make do*.

The crane festival was fun. You can tell the kids are accustomed to going places in the off-season, though. They were stunned that the Wildlife Refuge could even hold that many people and still have room for the birds. We lasted about an hour and a half before the kids suggested we go home, craft there, and come back one day when it's quieter. We agreed.

We're late to the game on making slime and thinking putty, but we're making up for it in spades! (So. Much. Glue. Gosh.) I figure we'll hit the hardware store for glue-in-bulk, and once the kids get the hang of it, we'll snag some tins from American Science & Surplus. So, heads up on gifts from the Littles this year.

I haven't heard much from James on his weekend getaway, but he did text me at one point to say that the speakers were good and he felt very rejuvenated.

1, I'm glad he's feeling rested and energized.
2. I'm glad that's something he's attuned to and looking for. Yay.

John and Jake got back from their backpacking, showered, and collapsed. But not before I joyfully pointed to the now-repaired washing machine and suggested they let the wash be cleaning while they went limp. (The 21st Century has a lot going for it.)

Today, we're back at it, full schedule. Zorak is home for the day because today is MLK Day. We will watch Dr. King's speech, and remember that this is why we live the way we live. Judge each man on the strength of his character, not the color of his skin. That dream is not dead. In spite of the reports to the contrary, as I listen to the children I'm fortunate to know, I am encouraged. There are kids out there who get it, who care, and who will make such a difference in this world we all share. Character matters. Encourage it. Cultivate it. Reward it. Let the generations coming up know how very much it matters. We do not give up just because a battle is hard won, right?

Be encouraged!


Sunday, January 15

Whoa, that's crazy!

We're down to only two for the weekend. One of the Bigs is at a youth conference with a friend and the other two are somewhere in a WMA in Tennessee. It's so quiet. It's also not nearly as weird and confusing having two *now* as it was when we only had the first two. Experience helps so much!

We're going to go see the cranes and hang out with friends.

And do a week's worth of laundry. (The pump on the washer went out last week, and although the service and pricing at was fantastic, as usual, the shipping took its sweet time. It was weird and uncharacteristic of them. But on the up side, we had a substitute mail carrier, so he actually delivered it the day it came in instead of just pre-emptively popping a "sorry we missed you" note into the mailbox like our regular carrier does. That means we got it yesterday and got a head start on it! Woop-woop! Even re-treading clothes, we crank out a lot of laundry, and it was getting gnarly in here.)

Between loads, we'll get the property tidied a bit, since it's going to be 71 degrees today. Tick abatement doesn't wait for Spring around here! In the words of my favorite Auror, "Constant vigilance!"

Be encouraged!


Saturday, January 14

On Encouragement

Encouragement is something we all need. It's something we crave. We don't all necessarily want it in the same way... For example, I have one child who loves some high fives and goofy accolades from friends, acquaintances, strangers on the sidewalk - he's pretty much willing to be encouraged by anything... and another who is much more encouraged by a quiet positive comment that can't be heard beyond the two of you, or by receiving a note or a card, than by anything loud or likely to draw attention her way. Both are receptive to encouragement, but they are not encouraged by the same thing.

I wonder if we sense that aspect of it, but don't quite know how respond to it. I know I struggle with "knowing" how to be encouraging. I hear friends express a desire to be encouraging. It's often accompanied by a semi-apologetic self-deprecating half-laugh. 

It always catches me off guard coming from them, because I hear it from some of the most encouraging, uplifting, strengthening women I know. These are the women who I trust with my most precious things: my children's struggles, my own fears, my worries. I trust them with my hopes, my crazy ideas, my broken nature. They are the ones I know will actually pray when they say they will. They mean it when they say they'll help with anything. They extend good faith and assume the best when there are disagreements.

(And if you're thinking right now, "Wow, Dy, you are one lucky gal!" Well yes. Yes, I am. I don't know how it happened, and I absolutely don't deserve it, but I'm not about to point it out to anyone who could fix it differently.)

I don't claim to know the answer, but I would venture to suggest that being encouraging isn't a thing in itself. I'm starting to believe that just by being in relationship with others -- real relationship, where you share your lives together, and you know each other -- your presence and interaction are, by their very nature, encouraging. 

When you know whether someone feels better by laughing or sitting quietly, and you care about them, you learn to bring that to the table (or, if you're me, at least try to be calm and quiet if that's what they need) when you come to them. But really, the fact that you're *there* is the root of the encouragement. You're traveling along with them, not expecting them to go it alone. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to be perfect. Just be there. Be willing. That is so encouraging.

Be encouraged (and encouraging!)

~ Dy

Friday, January 13

Ballet for Fun and Fitness

After watching The Nutcracker, you may remember Jacob announcing he would lurve to take ballet.

Well the director of the school called back and invited him to come visit a class. He did, and he loved it. He'll only explain it as, "It's hard and it's fun and I-am-so-not-flexible-at-all and Oh-I'm-going-to-have-amazing-legs-if-I-stick-with-it! I love it!"

So he signed up, and he'll be in dance (between ballroom, which he doesn't want to drop, and ballet) for nine hours a week. But he's thrilled with it, and looking forward to the challenge.

He's got his Space stuff - National Space Society, Space Camp, math. And now, he's got his dance. He's a happy kid.

And, I guess you've gotta love it. I don't know. But it's encouraging to me to see the kids pursuing hard things that make their souls soar.

It's fascinating to see how each child has such different interests and energy. I'm forever thankful that each of them knows he/she has support and encouragement to pursue whatever weird rabbit trail catches their attention. 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty interesting year!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, January 12

Gosh, but I Am So Old!

I used to be my mother's tech support. I could program the record function on a VCR like a boss. I could scan for channels and get a new remote paired with the TV in no time. And her clocks? They were always synchronized and accurate, never flashing. This morning, it's a different story...

I'm writing this up in Open Office Writer because my internet connection is hinky. I ran the troubleshooter and it said the modem is experiencing difficulties (which is code for, “You have Charter. They're probably down, but they said not to tell you that.”) The troubleshooter suggested rebooting the modem.

Hey, I can do that. I remember doing that, back when you had to set up your modem on the phone that could do pulse/button dial tone! (I got a new phone just so I could do that!) My IT is leaving this year, so I'll just quietly assume my old position. Cool. That's cool.

I peered around the back of the TV and...

You can't be serious! First off, we're missing one – either the router or the modem – but there's only one box back there and I'm pretty sure there should be two. So, if the modem is actually missing, that would explain a lot.

But right now, it doesn't really matter because I can't tell if the one that's left is the router or the modem. It doesn't seem to say, outright, what it is. I feel so old.

And my internet is down SO I CAN'T EVEN LOOK IT UP.


I checked my watch. Hmm 6:30... I wonder how long before I can risk waking my tech support?

Where's my phone? I found it. It's charging. Just need enough charge to figure out if that's the modem behind the TV. If so, I'll need to find out how to reboot it. (Yes, I know you just press the button. But there are a zillion buttons.) And if that's not the modem, well, I'm going to have to wake tech support, then, and inquire just where they've relocated the actual modem to...

And why.

Because I am old and cannot even begin to reason where you'd put a modem if not with the router. (Or vice versa.) But I will! And I will put a note in my journal so that the next time this happens I won't be stuck offline during the prime Quiet Moments of the day.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

P.S. James got up fairly early this morning, so I just told him the internet was down and he made magic. He also showed me where the modem is living, now. AND gave me a cool trip  -- if you can't remember which is which, just remember that your modem communicates with your ISP (which is easy - the router broadcasts, or routes, things to the devices in the house), so if you find the ISP cable coming out of the wall, you can follow it to the first box you hit and TA-DA, that's the modem. I'm still not remotely prepared for him to leave, but this will make it easier.

Wednesday, January 11


I don't have legit New Year's Resolutions this year, but I did read the other day that Mark Sisson is doing another Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge, and I think I'm in.

I've been contemplating what direction to start plodding for the year, and strength is the one area I'm not feeling too bold about. My eating is dead-on. My rest patterns are not too bad once you factor in for late-night essays and snoring companions. Spiritually, I am very much in the mind of a learner, and that is an excellent place to be. Mentally, always a learner.

But strength? Eh, not so much.

My goals are simple (don't laugh - we all have to start somewhere):

1) I want to do a pull up. Un-assisted. Un-aided. Preferably without having to make too many faces.

2) The rest, I just want to level up from where I am now on each of the four basic movements using Mark's Progressions.

3) I want to use sprints to improve my speed on the 2.6 mi amble by 25%

So, in the morning I will do my assessment of where I am, now. And then I'll get on it.

What are you up to this year?

Be encouraged!


Tuesday, January 10

It's Not All School

In spite of the fact that paperwork and prodding are taking up a ridiculous amount of time these days, that's not all that's going on (because it's never just one thing, is it?) and there are plenty of fun things happening, as well.

I am down 45 pounds from Christmas 2014! The kids don't really appreciate my enthusiasm over that -- they reply with all the things I've told them over the years. "It's not about a number, it's about how you feel..." And yeah, OK, that's true. It is. But FORTY-FIVE POUNDS IS PRETTY STINKING HAPPY MAKING. And yeah, I feel great. I've ditched a small rucksack of books. An angry toddler. A really terrifying snake. (Truthfully, I don't have a handle on just how big a 45 pound snake would be, but we have cottonmouths, and just thinking about that gives me the willies.)

They actually came to appreciate the magnitude of it when they were watching old clips from Just Dance that winter and caught a Big Foot style sighting of their mother walking across the background.

"Holy cow! Did you see Mom?"

(*rewind, play it again*)

"Whoa! Man, you were... I mean, huh. *shifts voice from incredulity to thoughtfulness* You have lost a significant amount of weight."

*blank stare*

Yes. Yes, I have.

"You must feel SO much better!"

*snortch* Yes. Yes, I do.

And it's not about the number. It's not even entirely about the weight -- I'm guessing that ditching the cancer has done tremendous things for my energy and vigor. :-) But the overall healthfulness is encouraging. Being strong enough to live the life I want to live, and being energetic enough to do it well, are huge blessings that I don't take for granted.

I won't go all door-to-door missionary on you, but if you want to know more, look at Drs. Phinney and Volek and their nutritional ketogenic therapies and way of eating. It's good stuff.

Maybe eventually I'll loose enough weight that I can do a whole pull up, eh? (I kid. I'll never get up to a full pull up.)

Be encouraged!


Monday, January 9

On That First College Acceptance Letter

How your children end up, as adults, is pretty much up to them. It really is. You spend years reminding yourself as they grow that they are nearly adults, now, and they have to make their own decisions. That they have to live with the consequences as well as reap the rewards. That you can't force them to make the same calls you would, and that sometimes they make better calls than you would. But there's a big difference in the philosophical aspect of parenting, and the natural inclinations that drive much of our internal dialogue.

And mostly, we're OK with it. Except when we're not.

While I love my kid, and am proud of the young man he's become, I will not lie to you: getting that first acceptance letter from a college application is a huge relief. At least, it was to me -- not because I felt he was a failure if nobody said yes, but because I was terrified I might have failed him, and that would be proof. Some of combating that is in knowing what path they want to take, and some of it comes from applying to places that are a good fit for them. But still, there's that niggling worry... what if all our decisions have effectively barred you from pursuing the very goals we've fostered?

You spend an inordinate amount of the time right before they leave home vacillating between, "It's really up to them" and "Please, Lord, let me not have broken them". It's a hard, weird process -- one that will strip you of your vanity, expose your deepest fears and failings, bring to light your heart's desires (both for your child and, less altruistically, for yourself), and quite possibly tax your liver. I highly recommend it, though, because I am convinced that if you can hang in there long enough, things are pretty fantastic on the other side. (As my brother-in-law says, an adventure is what you're having once you realize you're not gonna die.)

So. I'm not gonna die.

That makes this an adventure.

If parenting is the process of guiding a born person into self-sufficiency and full development, it is also very much a process of dividing yourself up and apportioning bits of you into this same autonomous creature. Then watching in horror as this individual goes off and acts like, well, an individual -- as if your heart weren't wholly vested in this person's safety and well-being and success.

Your heart, but also a bit of your pride. Particularly if you've homeschooled your now-autonomous individuals. (Although whatever educational path a family has taken, a parent's got a lot vested after nearly two decades. That's just the nature of the process.) And if you've got a child who has decided to go the post-secondary education route, that whole process is very invasive and scary. People with magnifying glasses and deadlines hit you with questions, and make demands for referrals and money. And no matter how fervently you swore you would not default to box-checking and hoop-jumping... well, there you are. It's tempting. Because this is your BABY. And we really don't want to be the reason someone said no.

But you know what? They really are their own persons. You have given them the best of yourself, your time, your talents, and above all, your love. The people or places that recognize whatever kindred energy exists between them will honor that and welcome them in. The people or places that don't are likely not going to be a good fit for them, anyway.

But I recognize that that's a much easier thing to say after one "yes".

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 8

The Things You Miss

Aside from one child's era of tying things in knots, I've generally loved the weirdness that comes with having children in the house. This latest bit cracks me up...

A friend described it as a hipster plush party! LOVE IT! Everybody should have a party in the hallway. At least once.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, January 7

What's Another Word For...

This week, with scholarship essays, ACT essay prep, and general writing practice, there's a lot of "What's another word for..." going around. It seems like we're all in need of words.

I do love playing that game. It's not really a game-game, but it is absolutely my favorite part of the writing process. Elocution. Wordsmithing. Polishing. Whatever you want to call it, the satisfaction of taking words that convey meaning and turning them into words that drive a point home, or make a point pop, is one of my favorite academic highs. (Can you have academic highs? Is that a thing?)

So, that's the general goings on, here.

What's another word for "trip"?

What's another word for "effectual"?

What's another word for "Aaargghhhh!"

(And then we know it's time for a break.)

But on a more serious note, what are your favorite essay writing tips? I'm asking about things beyond what the College Board or BuzzFeed suggest. Assuming a good night's rest, a well-balanced breakfast... no, wait, that's test prep...

OK, assuming a topic, an outline, and a functional grasp of how words work... what weird, or quirky, or just down-in-the-weeds thing has worked for you or your students? What have you stumbled upon that you don't find everywhere, but wish you'd seen sooner? (Or that you are just really glad you know!)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, January 6

Snow Day!

First snow day of the year!

After the Snowpocalypse a few years ago that brought most of the South to its knees, everyone is a bit twitchy over the potential for snow. The schools are closed. Skate Day is canceled. Even the arsenal is closed today.*

This picture was taken at 10:45 in the morning. (Forecast accumulation says it'll be a bit worse than this. We just thought this was adorable.)

There is, however, no Snow Day for homeschoolers. (Or, rather, no snow day until you can actually play in it.) So the kids are working on writing.

After my dry run with the Prototype Child through the college admissions process, I've decided that we're adding a weekly journaling time to our schedule. This isn't going to be tied to what we're reading or what we're doing, which they can write about any time, but will use various essay prompts I dig up around the web. Theoretically, by the time they're ready to apply, they'll have ample experience with thinking about the sorts of things the essays ask them to think about. (To be truthful, I had thought that was what their education had done, but it turns out as soon as they're asked to jot down a few thoughts about very specific applications of their brains, they draw blanks. I admit I did not see that coming. Good to know now.)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

*(Please note that it was not because we're all idiots, but because we have no snow removal in place, and also because the South just doesn't get cold and stay cold - it gets cold, warms up just enough to turn everything to slush, then re-freezes and snows over the ice - that's tricky, no matter who you are.)

Thursday, January 5

Herding Cats

A while back there was a technology company that put out a video of cat herders on a kitty drive. It was precious and very well done. (It was also hilarious, and just about every mother who saw it probably considered getting cowboys to help with the child wrangling.) But there were a few lines in the commercial that fit just perfectly:

I'm livin' the dream... I wouldn't do nothin' else... when you bring a herd into town and ya ain't lost a' one of them, ain't a feelin' like it in the world. 

So, James and I went to the community college yesterday to get registered. I went for backup and to offer my mad signature writing services, should they need anything official from the "school". I tried to have some fun with it -- "Just think of me as your own, personal bouncer." -- but he thought that was weird and asked me to stopit.

It took five hours to iron out the few glitches that remained, but our spirits were pretty high. We had fun. (We both talk to strangers, so that's handy.) We talked about big things and little things. We enjoyed each other's company. It was wonderful.

As we headed out we got behind a beautiful young mother with her two little fluffy-headed boys in tow. Both boys were wearing sweats tucked into cowboy boots. It snapped me back 15 years to when the older boys were little, running amok on campus in their capes and shorts and cowboy boots. I couldn't help but make little swooning sounds.

James opened the doors for them, and then I was straddling the two worlds - remembering the children they were and seeing the men they're becoming. Nearly two decades collapsed in on me.

I reached out to the mother and told her the first thing that came out...

They are beautiful. And you won't always be tired, I promise.

She laughed. She said she was glad to hear that, because she would really like to not feel harried but she does find herself wishing they would hurry up and become a little less hard to keep track of. I pointed at mine and told her it will come. And it will feel like it came too quickly and took too long, but that most of parenting is weird like that. Told her she's doing fine, her children are precious, and to hang in there.

Then I had to chase James down to get the keys, and I only got to drive by negotiating away control of the heat and air in the car. It was a hot and sticky, but happy, drive home.

And he's registered for classes, now. Onward we go!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 4

Beauty in Life

I've said so many times that God gave us Em because we needed to be reminded that life can (and ought to be) beautiful as well as functional. We can do functional 'til the cows come home, but sometimes it's ugly. She corrects that.

For Christmas, Em had asked for Perler Beads. If you don't have an 8-12yo child in your life, you're probably missing out. They're small, like little pony beads - they have sharp edges like Legos - and they roll like airsoft BBs. So, basically, when I saw that item on her wish list, I immediately scanned for something more reasonable, like a pony or a Disney cruise where you never meet anyone in character costume. Nope. No luck there. The rest of her list was so simple - a sharpie of her own, a soft blanket to replace her gnarly, unsalvageable one... Really, it was a shockingly sane wish list. So, Perler Beads it is!

Recently, I lost my Pampered Chef brown scraper. Since we use nothing but cast iron, and occasionally enameled cast iron, this is A Problem. But I can't find it. It's probably in the upper meadow, and there's probably a perfectly good explanation why, but none of us has any ideas.

And so, one evening, when I started to clean the kitchen, I found this waiting for me at the sink...

She gets functional. But she sees that there should be beauty, as well.

Viewed sensitively and with love; the world blossoms in beauty." ~Kristian Goldmund Aumann

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Tuesday, January 3


I think there's little quite as healthy for a woman's prayer life than having nearly grown children. Sure, you've spent years praying over their angelic heads while they finally (blessedly!) napped, as they headed off to their first overnight excursion, or took on a new skill. You've prayed for their precious little friends through illnesses and new challenges. You've prayed that they will develop discernment, be kind and generous. Prayed that they will have friends who are, too.

But there's something about the fledging process that will drop. you. to. your. knees.

I don't know if it's the fact that they're semi-autonomous, at least in all the ways that matter. They make most of their own choices, but you've got to watch. Sure, you're still there for advice, or, if need be, to help guide them from going off the deep end, but the reins have been passed at this point, and although you're still in the carriage with them (possibly clutching the railing and trying not to gasp and yell, but I just came out of two new drivers, back-to-back, so that could be me), they are the ones driving their own gig. And all that comes with it - success, failure, lessons learned, hopes nurtured, dreams realized... all of it is in their hands.

The stakes seem immense. (Bigger than they seemed when you were the fledgling with the feel of the reins in your hands!) They seem immense in a world where it seems one mistake, one misstep, one thoughtless moment will mark the end of every opportunity. They seem immense in a world where there is so much pressure to know what you're going to do, but very little expectation of knowing how to actually do anything. They seem heart-wrenchingly immense when you realize that someone else's poor choices could end your child's chance to live the life you've prepared him for.

And that's not even getting to the times that you, with your vantage point of years and failures and learning, can see an easier, quicker, more assured way forward... but they have the reins. They're in the thick of it. They're doing the best they can with the perspective they have.

But there's also something beautiful in it. When you learn to pray, you learn to let go. When you admit your fears, you realize they are not yours alone. When you pour the blessings of your heart out on behalf of someone else, you find your own heart is strengthened and emboldened. So when you look up from your prayer, you don't see a riderless carriage careening off a precipice, you see and adventure unfolding. You see that the carriage has a rider, and that the rider is not alone. And it is good.

I have absolutely no idea how any of this is going to go, but I'm excited more than I'm afraid, and that's a good, good thing.

Be encouraged!


Monday, January 2

The High School Years, and Beyond

Blogging with Littles is easy. They're funny and quirky and sweet. They don't particularly care if you share their stories. Blogging with teens is a little trickier. (Stick with me, here. This isn't going where it looks like it's going, but I have an idea and I need to flesh it out. Lucky you!)

They're still funny and quirky and sweet, but even when you've tried to be thoughtful about your children's stories in the early years, you realize they're old enough to tell their own, now... also, that you've probably botched it many times over the years, anyway. Most bloggers stop writing. I get that. (Heck, I've done that!)

But for people who found encouragement or camaraderie or support in the writings of others, that full stop leaves a weird gap. There are moms out there who've followed bloggers with children a little older than their own*, and they were taking notes. (This, too, I get. I have notebooks, a few stray envelopes, and receipt scraps, filled with the words of wisdom and recipes from women whose children are now in their 20's.) We're left dangling.

"Wait! What about... and then... but... nooooo!" We wail as our tribe disappears into the fog. "How will we find the trail?"

The reality is that everyone's in the fog. Every mother you know who has an eldest child is brand spanking new at whatever she's doing right now. She's got no idea what she's doing. She desperately wants to do it well (just as soon as she can figure out what "it" is), and she mostly doesn't want the follies she's pretty sure she's stumbling into to become a template for anyone else. So she gets quiet. Pulls in. Takes the same conversations once held on a more public forum into private messaging and emails. For her children's sake, she takes it private; for her sanity's sake, she keeps her tribe.

But it's good to encourage others in whatever way you can. Whatever way you are comfortable with. I have one friend who managed to blog through her children's teen years. It was about six years of blogging the word "weird" in all its various forms. I didn't get it until about three years ago. Ohhh, yeah, "weird" about sums it up. She is a rock star, as far as I'm concerned.

Some people like to take it to the street, to make eye contact with weary mothers and give them a thumbs up or whisper, "You've got this." These people are making a difference on the front lines.

Some manage to write, conveying the salmon-like struggle upstream with grace and humor, while honoring their adultish offspring and still ringing true to others. I can't claim to be able to offer that, but it's the direction I'd like to go. I'd also like to revamp my sidebar of blogs with active blogs that are in that stage. An in-the-fog series of beacons, if you will. One of my favorites over the last two years has been Grown and Flown. What are some of yours?

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

* Yes, that part of the sentence is a grammatical nightmare, but the more I worked on it, the more tangled it became. So, the women are technically stealing other people's older children and then following yet other women around the world with the children in tow as they make everyone take notes. The visual's a little whimsical, at least, but I could feel the English language slipping away from my grasp the longer I dinked around with it. So as long as you can figure out what I meant, yay you! Just run with it.

Sunday, January 1

The Good Things

2016 seemed like a grueling year in so many ways. But it wasn't all bad. In an attempt to archive some of the good (and some of it was Very Good, Indeed), I wanted to pick a highlight from each month to share. Like the habit of finding 3 Good Things to list when life gets difficult, but on steroids.

January - Z was gone a lot this year, and Dad Boxes, sent from on the road, were a highlight for everyone.

February - we finally got around to designing and building a coffee table to go with the sofa! I love it!!

Also, Buddy finally got over his fear of the car. (He now hops in, goes all the way to the third row, and refuses to acknowledge that you're even speaking to him until you've taken him for a spin around the courthouse!)

 March -- John and James were both called out for the Order of the Arrow.

 In April, we biked the Silver Comet, starting at the AL/GA boarder.

 Oh, and took pottery. This was a pretty fantastic month.

John, his best bud, and I volunteered at a Spartan Race. (The plan was to use our credit to race in May, but that fell through. Still, this was a pretty fantastic experience.)

May - prom! Steampunk. Because that's awesome.

And we bought kayaks for the Littles. OH, why did we wait so long? This was huge fun!

And Chemistry. Every week, with two other families. The house is still standing. There were a few explosions. Semi-controlled, and outside. So that was nice. This was hard, and good, and I'm SO glad we did this.

Jacob got to go to Space Camp. He's hooked, he's got his eye on Mars, and is saving to go back for the next level in 2017.

June - James was selected as a model for the Alabama Fashion Alliance. This changed the trajectory of the entire rest of the year. So much to learn, but such an interesting industry. And he loves it.

And back to Colorado! It was hard - very hard - to come back that last time. And did I tell you we hiked the Manitou Incline? I only got 3/4 of the way up before the Littles mutinied, but James and John made it to the top. Also, we got lapped by an octogenarian who clearly runs it daily just because he can, but even that was encouraging.

July -- We tried Durian for the first time. Because how can you not?

And then Jacob's best bud came home and spent a week scrabbling about the rocks with us.

August -- *phew* This one was hard. (That's not me in the pictures - as far as I know, there are no photos of me doing this. But I did it!) For someone who has no depth perception, is uncoordinated and afraid of heights, this was a gigantic feat. Scouting is cool.

September -- James had his first runway show.

And his second...

October -- we were still out in the kayaks every chance we got this Summer. Er, and fall.

And James received the rank of Eagle Scout!

November -- there's been a lot of fiber art action going on, here. I love these little miniature felted critters that Em made.

A visit from friends from out West!

And a birthday outing! (Actually, a lot of the kids turned 18 this year. This has been bittersweet, but the excitement and anticipation win out because they are just. such. great. young men and women.)

December -- we made it. Full lap. Holy cow.

Here's to 2017 bringing us a time of learning, discernment, joy, growth, support (both given and received)...

Be encouraged!