Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Monday, February 5

On Reaching Out

The kids and I talked a lot yesterday about rebuilding our thing, our community. The kids miss it. I miss it. One of the things that's prevented us recently is that we lost a bit of our mojo during the cancer (which, fair enough, it'll knock anyone off their stride for a bit), and then once that was over ... well, we just didn't really get back to it. Inertia is a bear.

Then we moved.

Then Z moved.

Then Nutcracker. Then Christmas. Then Winter. Argh.

And now, here we are.

I think part of our problem is that we don't have the processes down, here, yet. In our old house, we could throw together a cookout for 40 guests with as little as two hours' notice. Easy. In this house, we can't hardly cobble together dinner for the five of us, even with a full day's head start. So that's a little tricky. I suspect we simply have to flail our way through a few gatherings in order to force start the new processes. We'll include apology gifts and flowers for those who get stuck being our first few guests, or something like that. But after that, it should come more naturally.

So the plan we came up with was this: find someone to invite to Sunday dinner and invite them.

What criteria you use doesn't matter. It can be someone you already know and like. It can be someone you'd like to get to know better. It can be someone who has done you a kindness that you'd like to reciprocate. It can be someone who just looks like they'd appreciate being looped in and connected. It can be someone you don't know at all, but you still feel compelled to invite them. It can be someone from work, school, church, a club or class, wherever. There are very few actual limitations on who it can be. Really. Your motivations are your own, and I trust you enough to be good with whatever the Spirit uses to move you. Run with it.

So, we'll see how that goes. It's going to require me to have my shizzle together quite a bit more of a Saturday afternoon, but that's probably something I should keep together as a general rule, anyway, right?

I'd LOVE to hear from you. What motivates you to reach out to someone? And then, how do you do it? Also, how do you keep your shizzle together?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, February 4

Building Community Takes Work

But it's worth it. I think we forget that. Yet, when we look back at the things we've loved the most about our lives, it's been about our community. Sitting around a fire (be it a small fire ring or a blazing bonfire), sharing food, sharing stories, building community in a very real sense. Biking to the courthouse to meet friends at the festival, pulling chairs and benches into a circle to share conversation, pitching in in the kitchen to get a meal ready, taking someone's children for a day or to an event that the person can't make, are all simple examples of building community in ways that are rock solid and that will make a difference. 

We've missed that. I'll be honest. We've fallen prey to the god of busyness. Too busy to have people over. Too busy to accept an invitation. Never setting a date on the spot because we "have to check the calendar".

But if I stop and think about it, how much extra effort, really, does it take to ask someone to share a meal you're already going to prepare, already going to eat? How much planning does it require to drag another chair out of the garage and set at the table? How hard is it to say, "It won't be fancy, but we would love to have you over for dinner"? What myopia allows us to think that's a legitimate thing? But we do it. We all do it. 

At Bible study on Tuesday, Father Geoff admonished us to be cautious about several things, one of which is not acting in a spirit of unity. (Or, rather, the author of Hebrews cautioned us -- Father Geoff just pointed out that there's nothing new under the sun, and we're not immune.) 

The verse that struck me hardest (and most beautifully) is Hebrews 10: 24-25:

 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I thought about our amazing book club, and what a struggle it is for many of us to make time for it. We love it, and we cherish the people in it, but either we feel it's a frivolous way to spend an afternoon, or it's too much (time, gas, juggling, whatever) to get there, or that we "ought" to be doing something more (important? responsible? what?) We love it, but we struggle to make it a priority.

Geoff mentioned that a church family ought to do more than socialize between worship and Sunday School. They ought to hang out together, help each other with their children, their illnesses, their worries, their joys. They ought to be a family. We punt around the word, "family" as if it doesn't have any tangible meaning. It does. It definitely ought to. It's up to us to give it meaning.

And this goes beyond the church walls. Z told me last night about taking an unused fryer base that his brother had lying around, rigging it up to hold a plow disc, and setting up on the back patio to make dinner. They had the fryer going, Pandora playing on someone's phone, dragged chairs out, and just hung out for the evening. It was a great end to the day, and they all really enjoyed it. What Z told his brother is that there's some nourishment that's non-tangibly-nutritive in eating together, in spending time together. It feeds more than just your body. He's right.

After study on Tuesday, a friend said, "We keep saying we want to get together, but if we don't put a date on it, I'm afraid it's not going to happen. Would Saturday work for you guys?"

She's a genius!

Last night, we went to their house and enjoyed an evening with them. They made dinner. We brought dessert. We played a game after dinner. Simple. Easy. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them more intimately. The kids really enjoyed spending time with them. I'd been on the go, go, go since early in the morning, so I hit the wall and had to be a party pooper long before anyone else was ready to go, but I'm so glad we went. I'm so glad she put a date on it and made it happen.

And it reminded me that the very thing we've been missing lately is the very thing that WE have failed to do lately: just ask people to come. Feed them. Talk with them. Pull up a chair. It's easy. We love it. We miss it. But we also have the power to get it back. That's something that's been put on us to do: do not neglect to meet together.

So, that's a good tip for making it a priority to build your community. Put a date on it. Just do it. Don't worry about having time to make something special. Don't worry about having time to make it an all day affair. That's not where family lives. Family lives on the back patio at the end of the day, snatching chicken off the plow disc. Family lives around the coffee table, figuring out the rules of a new game. Family, community, lives together, not alone. That's all it takes.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, January 5

Some days start earlier than others ...

I grabbed a transcription file yesterday - a nice, long, difficult one, since I didn't have any outside work coming up, and I figured I could work on it at my leisure throughout the day and really make sure it was tight. I love that feeling, when you know you've done a job spot on. It wasn't due until 11 today, so that was perfect.

Then I got a text last night - can I fill in a shift for someone who can't make it in the morning? Of course I can. (This is a really wonderful position, working with a truly delightful lady, and I am so thankful for having these beautiful people in our life.)

About an hour later, it hit me. I just bumped my transcription deadline up by four hours because I'd have to leave the house by 7:00. 😨 Well, that wasn't particularly brilliant. What can I say? I'm new at this.

So after dinner, I tasked the children with putting the living space to rights before they turned in, and I slipped off to bed super early. I was up and wide awake this morning at 2:30, and was able to finish the job and submit it in time to leave for work!

I need a GIF for that. It's definitely more Mr. Magoo than Wonder Woman, but you know, mostly it's about appreciation for having opportunities and being able to find ways to make things work, honor our commitments, and live a rich, healthy life.

What absolutely made my day, though, was getting texts from the older boys. "Do you mind if I take the Littles to Skate Day?" and "I'm taking Jacob to the movie." Oh! Well done, boys! Wow.

Got home to find John studying, and the house picked up. That's like Second Christmas for a mom!

So, to celebrate, we're sitting very still and not moving for a little bit. Just taking stock of the good things in the day ... It got above freezing for a few minutes today. That was exciting. (It's about to dip way back down, though, so the faucets are staying on.) ... Z is doing well - we talked this morning and he described the Sandias in the morning sunlight - I can't wait to see that again! ... School is back up and running, ballet, theater, Bible study ... There's coffee. (It's a little thing, but it's a thing, and I appreciate it.)

Not every season is going to be easy. Sometimes the seasons that you think will do you in turn out to be the easiest of the challenging parts of your life, and you'd love to go back and do them again with the knowledge you have currently. (It's like doing 1st grade math when you're in 6th grade, and you laugh and laugh that you'd been so frustrated when you first learned it. If you do find yourself feeling like that, wishing for the exhaustion of toddlers, or the "busyness" of playdates and field trips to the zoo, give yourself some kudos for having come far enough to do that. That's good stuff. You've got this.) And then, take stock of the good things. They're there in plenty.

Be encouraged!


Saturday, August 26

Oh, A Day to Rest!

Folks, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to tomorrow! Sure, we'll be driving into town (or rather, Z will drive - I will sit in the passenger seat and field random observations from Jase in the third row - it's how we roll). But when we get there, we will worship, we will learn. We will be still, we will give thanks and praise. We will comfort those who are grieving and hurting, as well as rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

And then, we'll eat together - all of us in our loud, messy, loving, wonderful, sometimes-cranky, always-thankful glory. I think our regular pot luck and prayer meeting is one of the highlights of my month. And tomorrow, I am going to sink down into a chair and just appreciate that we can do that.

Absolutely none of the things that have harried my mind of late are settled. In fact, some of them have gotten worse. Ha! Didn't expect that! But you know, it's OK. It really is. It will come together, one way or another, and there will be so much good to be had, regardless. I got that this week. I mean, I'd known that in my head, and I'd have encouraged any of you to remember it if you'd asked, but it's so nice to feel it deep, deep down in my bones. It's like exhaling when you didn't realize you'd been holding your breath.

The week was insanely busy. Jacob had auditions for The Nutcracker. No clue what he'll be doing, but he doesn't care. He's just so excited to be IN the very show that brought him this love and life that he's building. They could make him one of the wee mice and he'd be content.

The rest of it? Mostly driving. Driving and working. It's all good, but it makes for very boring prose. I'm sure a good DJ could knock out a rollicking good recap of the week's mileage, but us? Not so much. We ran through our Pimselur recordings. Jacob read in the car (but he won't read aloud to me while I'm driving, so that part is very boring). He quizzed me on the specs and histories of various armament, and I failed miserably at recalling any of the information, at all. So he told me all of it, again.

Oh! I did get to see James last night! (Yes, he still lives here, but between our schedules, we're just out of phase enough that we might as well live in different time zones. It's weird.) Anyway, we crossed paths for about half an hour at a party. He had popped in to say hi and visit a bit, but when he started to go, the hostess suggested he stay for a bit and see his mom (I was on my way to drop Jacob off and retrieve the Littles). So he did! Ha! That was brilliant on her part. We do greet in passing in the hallway, and occasionally bump into each other at the washing machine, but other than that, I just don't see him much. He looks good. Happy. Enjoying work and school. He has one instructor, in particular, who he just thoroughly enjoys.

Maybe I'll get to see the rest of them sometime this week?

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, July 26

What A Ridiculously Long Month

I got home Sunday evening. It was wonderful to be home! I think the family actually missed me. Jase got up bright and early Monday to begin sharing with me every random thought he's had the last month. I think he saved them up, because they came hot and fast that morning. Em keeps hugging me Just Because. Z keeps smiling and saying, "I'm glad you're home."

The biggest indicator, however, seems to be the number of things they don't know the schedule for. When is the movie shoot? When does ballet start back? Are we taking Burritt classes this year? Can I do dual enrollment? Can we build a rocket? When are we going to the water park? I spent Monday finding answers more concrete than "soon" and planning the school year so we can begin it.

The concrete on the front porch has been repainted. The basement stairwell is textured and painted. Both are so lovely! I'd hoped to come home to boxes, but no boxes so far. That worked out well in the end, though, as I needed to pull out this year's books and set them aside. Today, perhaps, boxes.

I have so much appreciation for how they all worked together to take up the slack that my absence caused! Other than expressing it verbally, I've tapped into my joy at having this home, this family, this life, and I will remember to share that joy with them, as well. This month away was long, but it was a mental and spiritual sabbatical during which I had the room to breathe, to think, to align my priorities with my goals. This is some exciting stuff!

Other than the weather (it is July in the South), it is so good to be home!

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...

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:

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

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!


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

Saturday, July 12

Plan A, B, or C

Pick one, it's all good.

We had planned to go on a river float today but the river is too low, so that trip was canceled. While we all appreciate the safety aspect (and, truth be told, none of us was up for a 1.5 mile hike in the river...) we were a little disappointed. Not quite ice cream falling on the sidewalk disappointed, but close.

So we did something else!

Just because the water's too low to float down river doesn't mean it's too low to get wet and play and splash around, right? (Right!) It's about 8" deep in this pic below.

This was Jase's first river trip, so of course, it was awful. Until suddenly, it wasn't. I think he's starting to trust the process. (And just a heads up - he was not in danger, nor was he hurt or injured. He just doesn't like New Things. Ever. Once they're not New, they're fantastic, and he's quite the adventurer after he knows what to expect.)

He did go down the rapids (not Real Rapids, just shoals, really - and remember, the water was low). About halfway down, he panicked. He screamed like a yeti had hold of him and was chewing on this calf. Holy heck, that kid's got a set of lungs on him! He wasn't hurt. He wasn't stuck. He wasn't in danger. He was just afraid - and that warrants a rescue, because being afraid is Real. I floated over to him and scooped him up (where he proceeded to scream inmyface until we got to the calm water). I beached us and asked him if he'd like to climb into my float so we could have some snuggles (because those make everything better).

That's when we discovered I'd beached us in muck. Knee-deep muck. When it's disturbed, it smells like rotting trash. And when it swallows you to your thigh and starts stinking, well, that's when it's clearly time to start screaming bloody hell all over again. At least, that's how it goes if you're six.

I got us dislodged and back out into the current, got him calm and loved on, then we made a plan. And we did it. He walked back up the shoals, slowly, processing the whole thing aloud with every step. I held his hand, carried both tubes, and kept up a running stream of cheerleading and encouragement while trying not to slip since I didn't have a free hand and it's generally bad form to break your fall with the child. By the time we got to the top of the shoals, he was ready to try it again, this time on my lap.

Well, that was *great*, until my butt snagged on a rock and we flipped out of the tube. I don't know if ear drums can pucker, but if they can, mine did. I was braced for the panicked screaming and general freak out common to the timid child. But, no. I mean, he did yell, but he yelled,

"Don't panic! Nobody panic! We've got this."

And we did. We let the tube go (the teens were down at the next bit of shoals and we figured they'd grab it as it went by), got out of the water, and worked our way back to the beach head.

By the time we got back to the beach, he pronounced this day, "The best day, ever!" Which,when you're six, totally counts. He was ready "to go for a little swim", but to be honest, I needed a nap at that point.

Plans don't always go according to, you know, plan. But the day doesn't have to be a waste. We don't have to stay home because a trip is canceled. We don't have to get out of the water because something didn't pan out the way we expected it to. He's learning a lot. So am I.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 7

Fourth, early

Our little town had its annual Independence Day celebration last night, so that's when we had friends over and cooked out. The Charter service man came to switch out our modem in the morning. Hopefully, that will reduce the amount of downtime our internet suffers. He was fantastic, Charter, we're not so thrilled with so far. Then we commenced the preparations for the party.

We could not have begged for better weather - sunny and bright, but breezy and comfortable. Wow. Just wow. Z rocked the asado action on the smoker, and I think if we hadn't had guests I'd have eaten the whole thing myself, keeping the kids at bay with a poky stick - so, unbelievably good! Thankfully, part of my filter is still in place and I didn't assault the guests. Or run cackling into the woods with the pan of asado.

The teens got restless about an hour before the fireworks began. They wanted to get down to the square while it was still light and see the sights. Since none of the adults were quite ready to roll yet, the boys asked if they could take their bikes. We have a million bikes, so there were plenty for everyone who wanted to ride, and off they went. I'm guessing they had fun. We put eyes on them when we arrived at the square an hour later, and everyone had shave ice and was laughing. No blood, no limping. We called it good. It was nice, though, to run into friends who volunteered that they'd seen the boys and spoken with them and were so glad to see them. I love it when people volunteer good things about teens. They get it, and they get the kids. That's good stuff, right there. The rest of us, big and little, were happy to take our time moseying about in the meantime.

The fireworks were, once again, absolutely spectacular. It's one of my favorite parts of living here. Well, the whole thing, really - the show is amazing, the people are sweet, the food is fantastic. It's a good combination.

After the show, everyone (plus a few we picked up at the square) came back to the house for a bonfire and to finish off the desserts. That was, quite possibly, the perfect ending to a lovely day.

Today, we laid around doing nothing. It was delicious. Jacob told me he really needed a full week of that, and then interrupted himself to add, "Oh, wait! You have Circe coming up, which means Dad will be watching us, and we'll have a week of doing nothing. Oh, that's perfect!" And off he ran to share his revelation with his siblings. Z grinned when I shared that story with him, but he didn't deny it. I guess Kinderspringa shall become a tradition. They could do worse, really.

Have a safe and thankful weekend!

Kiss those babies,

Sunday, February 16

The Week in Review

We had Snow Week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, January 22

So, it's winter...

Shouldn't be surprising that it's cold, should it? But it's not Southern Cold right now. It's just plain Cold. Crazy Cold for Alabama. And it's been that way all month, with one lovely break last week. It happens. It only lasts a month or so, but it does happen. We're rather appreciative of the wood stove, yet again. (I don't think we've ever looked at each other and wondered if that was a good investment.)

However... tomorrow night's low is supposed to be 8 degrees, with a high on Friday of freezing. Yeah, for those of you in Florida, you read that right: it'll eventually, with a good deal of effort and focus, get UP to freezing sometime after noon. This isn't a big deal (there are always books to read, soup to make, you know), except we have our first group hike planned for Friday morning, and I'm thinking we're not likely to have a high turn out with this forecast.

People start hemming about when it's not going to top 50. When the high is 32, they just stop talking to anyone suggesting we go out for the heck of it. And rightfully so. We're all wired differently. I do get that. I mean, they'll be out there in flip flops and tank tops at the height of Summer without breaking a sweat while I'm dragging myself from shady spot to shady spot, working feverishly to stay hydrated.

And then, there's Jase. Poor thing. Not an ounce of insulation on his wiry little frame, and very little enthusiasm for being out in the cold in the first place. (I forget, he was born here. This is his Normal. He's got his flip flops by the front door, just waiting for the chance to be worn.) I wonder if we know anyone who would take the littles for the morning in exchange for letting me take their teens hiking? Hmm... I think I'll get on that and see what we can work out. Jase will thank me, and so will anyone else who decides to brave the cold and didn't want to hear his play-by-play about just how miserably cold it is. (Have I mentioned how articulate he's become lately? Bit of a double edged sword at times, but there you have it. Quite articulate, that one.)

Z and John worked on the forge some over the weekend.

Em and I worked on her room a bit more. (She loves beading, but doesn't like to wear jewelry, so we're taking on projects that will get some actual use around the house. Kind of fun!)

Jacob's been drawing and drawing. If you have a budding artist, and you need a gift idea - the articulated drawing mannequins are phenomenal. Z looked at me like I was nuts when I put one in the basket for Christmas, but it gets used daily. We don't even ask him to put it away when he picks up, now. It just lives on the breakfast bar, like a weird wooden joint fairy. Love that thing.

Oh! And, we've been working on creating a family vision this week. The kids have had some great input regarding what their ideal home philosophy would look like, and what their visions are. The Official Family Vision isn't finished yet, but it's coming along. I'd started out just hoping to make it something that reflected a general perspective that included most of us, but they're working to turn it into something that reflects each of us as individuals, expressed through the family as a whole. Far more than I would have been able to do on my own. Funny how that works, eh? Good stuff, this.

Kiss those babies, and stay warm!

Tuesday, January 1

So, it's a new year...

That would explain the look of bewilderment Z gave me when he asked what our plans were last night, and I said, "I don't care what we do, but we better get on it, because they are not staying up until ten-thirty again!"

It was a long day, okay? In the post-Christmas lag, with the ongoing parenting, feeding, cleaning, general wrestling of the feral cats (and rounding up the slippery one), my brain shuttled any knowledge of a pending celebration and instead focused (somewhat intently) on curling up with a roaring fire, some Bailey's in the coffee, and a Jasper Fforde book. I love my kids, but none of that scenario included having the children up until all hours of the night.

But, it's New Year's Eve!

Aaanddd, they're old enough to know what's going on. I kind of miss the days that I could point to the sunset and say, "Alrighty, kids! It's almost time for bed!" Not so bad in the summer, because they're outside, and in the winter, hey, half the population of Florida eats dinner at 4:30 and hits the hay by five. Nothing wrong with that. But they grow up, learn to tell time, read a calendar, and eventually look at you expectantly because they *know* there's a holiday on. And, as I explained to EmBaby when she asked what the big deal was about marking a full rotation around the Sun, humans are celebratory creatures. We like to come together, we like to mark the special amidst the mundane. We look for any opportunity for a feast or a gathering, and we set those opportunities aside. They become special because we make them so. It's good stuff, this being Human. The reminder didn't hurt me one bit, either.
Luckily, it only took a little recalibration on my part (made easier by Z taking everyone with him to the grocery and the video store, so I had a few minutes to think in full sentences and not have to mediate the cabin-fevered children - bless him!), and we were off for an evening of fun.

We had jalapeno and green chile cheese dip. We had fish tacos. We had root beer floats and Christmas candy. (Evidently, our theme for the New Year is, "Eh, why not?") Then we put the two littles to bed, and we had zombie movies and sparkling cider. We chased down some good ideas for 2013, and sketched out a plan. I thought back to when I was 12 and 14, already ready to be gone from the house for NYE, instead of stuck at home, not talking, just sitting there, staring at each other. And I thought how thankful I am that we have a different dynamic in our home. That the boys are forgiving of their aging mother and her desire for quiet in the wee hours of the night, but that they're not surprised that she can get in there and laugh and fisk a good zombie movie, too. We laughed. A lot. We ate a lot. They shared some of their ideas, and they have good ideas. We shared our ideas. (Have I mentioned that the boys are patient? They are.)

We don't know what this coming year will bring, but we know we'll give it our all, and we'll do it together. That's enough. That's actually more than enough. It's going to be an amazing year!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 17

A Busy Day in December

Z and I did quite a bit of shopping today, finishing up the majority of our gift purchases. Coffee, quiet time in the car, no bickering over what to buy or where to go. It. Was. Wonderful. Long-term monogamy is handy for us slow learners. Give us another 15 years, and we are absolutely going to *rock* this living together thing!

I'm finally entering the... whatever century this is... and actually used my Amazon app to buy books. In the car. On our way home. I don't know why that felt like such a milestone, but it did. :tinylittlefistbump: Had this phone for two years, and it's only been in the past few months that I've figured out how to use it. This is why I'm not an early adopter, right? But, yay, Amazon loves me and there will be books beneath the tree!

James watched the siblings for us, which was huge. He wants to babysit, and so the experience is good for him. Plus, it's not a bad gig - they played Apples to Apples and Battleship. He made lunch. Jacob made smoothies. Then James and John read to the little ones, and spearheaded the video game rotations, all without wielding the Staff Of Power, or any other nonsense. Just a good, warm, gentle time of watching the Littles. They were all quite content and safe. Plus, he called to check in while we were out. :happy melting heart: He's such a great big brother. And a neat kid, overall.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is here in Alabama. I'd feel silly if we lived here a decade and never made it over there. (Kind of like not making it to the Walls of Jericho, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Buck's Pocket, Rock City, and a few other places on our To Do list...) So that's where we went today. Wow. Oh, wow. That is a cool little place. They have a museum, with displays and information on the more interesting things that have come their way. They have a central pillar display done up like ancient Venetian plaster, with money and pictures from around the world worked into the columns. I'm pretty sure I couldn't go on a highly hormonal day, as there were a few things that you just *know* someone really, really missed, and I couldn't imagine not trying to find out who and where, to reunite them with the lost item. So. There is that warning. But if you're of a less sentimental nature, it's a neat little place to find interesting things. No pictures from there, though. They do have a hashtag and posters for Instagram users who want to tag them. I nearly took a picture of that, but couldn't decide if it was weird or ironic. If you can't tell, it's best to pass, I think.

And the window trim is up! (As of two minutes ago.) I have to clean, and we need sunlight, but then I'll share a picture of the end result. This project is as big an improvement as pulling the carpet was! (Z says not quite, from a health standpoint, the carpet wins. That's a fair assessment.)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 12


There is a window in the wall, folks! It's IN. It's not foamed or trimmed, but I don't particularly mind. It's IN! It's so pretty, too. We may get up early tomorrow, just to enjoy the light as the sun comes up.

Also, that was just in time. We have a Scout meeting here tomorrow. The boys will be down in the meadow (additional serendipity: meteor shower tomorrow night! WOOHOO!), but the committee members will probably appreciate meeting indoors before that. It will be nice for there to be a marked difference, yes? Yes, we thought so, too.

Standing back, taking in the progress, I'd wondered aloud if we could find before-before pictures of the house, and Zorak mentioned that he's pretty sure there are some on the blog. I'll bet he's right! That will make before/after shots significantly easier, but it also got us thinking about how much we've done, and how much we've learned. We're really quite fortunate to have one another -- it's a good combination. Although I am excited about living in a normal, finished house for a time. At least until we have the opportunity to take on another Big Project.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 2

Watching Paint Dry

Turns out, it won't dry any faster if you watch it. (And yet, I stare. Go figure.)

As of this writing, the kitchen has been textured and primed. I wanted to paint tonight, but that's not going to happen. Of course, I wanted to put the kitchen back together tonight, too, so admittedly, I had ulterior motives at work, there. Still, we are moving forward, keeping our spirits up, and our debris to a minimum. If I can get two coats on tomorrow, then Zorak can do a few things under the cabinets when he gets home and then we'll be in business. I can't describe how giddy I am over this project.

We bought enough paint to do all the living area spaces that are currently Heavy Cream. (Fresh paint does wonders, even if it's the same color you had before.) I thought I'd run into a bit of a snag, though, when I pulled the paint chip for it. It's... tan. According to the paint chip, Olympic's "Heavy Cream" is a tan color. I stuck it under the wonder lights, to see if our lighting must be making it look different. Nope. It looks tan under all the different lighting options. So I called James and asked him to read the label to me. It matched. No extra letters, numbers, or runes anywhere on the can? Nope. :shrug: OK, then. Since we're redoing everything, I guess it wouldn't matter if it were way off. It's just unsettling to think you've been living in a creamy yellow house for seven years, only to find out it's tan and everybody you know just smiled and nodded when you described it as yellow.

The guys began the brick work today, removing the bricks from within the space for the new window. The boys helped get them off, and took turns cleaning bricks (some of the old window space will now be wall, so we want to re-tread bricks to match where we'll have to build new wall.). If there is a patron saint of lungs or respiratory systems, I need to know. The dust is astounding! Even with filters and tarps and a good breeze to keep it moving away from the house, everything is covered in abrasive dust. Blech. By the time we're done with this project, it's going to take another six months to get it all out of the house.

Anyway, the boys worked their fingers to the bone this weekend. Zorak declared they did a steak-worthy job, so we splurged on steaks and turnip greens tonight. So good. I wish we could afford for them to work this hard all the time!

The window will be here in 13 days. That's plenty of time to finish what we can of the brickwork, have the rest of the kitchen back together, and start another project. I love this time of year!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 28

Encroaching Obligations

For years, I've guarded our time at home. It's our downtime, our quiet time, our sanctuary from the ever-pressing Busy Life. This is where we delve into the ideas we have, share our questions, and explore new things. When the boys had baseball practice on Thursdays, we had piano lessons, bought groceries, and ran errands on Thursdays. Granted, it made Thursdays a little hellish, but it kept the rest of the week free and flexible. When we dropped baseball, I moved things around a bit to free up the ends of the week, but kept that same mindset: one day a week is all I'm willing to give to outside activities and demands. That felt so good. It felt so good that I clung to the idea long after I'd allowed it to die.

Recently, I've felt as if we're just bowled over by a lack of time. But we only leave the house two days a week! (Errand day and church.) How can that be? How can we not have enough time? And I pressed to make us more efficient, more focused, more diligent. Let's get to bed earlier, get up earlier. More focus, less distraction. Let's go, move, DO! Hop on one foot with our tongues on our noses while we feed the animals.

OK, that last one, not so much. But for all the good it would have done, we might as well have tried it. I sat down tonight to make our menu for the next two weeks, and thought about how I often get caught without a *good* plan on the rare occasion we have somewhere to be. So, I thought to myself, let's jot down in the menu where we have to go on those days and see if that helps remind me to plan quick meals, or crockpot meals, or whatever creative endeavor needs to happen on those days.

What the what, Batman!?

We have piano/guitar/groceries/errands one day, Scouts another day, Cub Scouts another day, community activities another day, church on Sundays. Roundtables and committee meetings. Add in the monthly Scout outing (which takes a full weekend), the regular Pack events (an additional night a month, plus prep time), Forge meetings, homeschool social activities, work, and the time required for the Projects That Must Be Done and...

We're never home. We're never still. Not for any appreciable length of time. There is no downtime. There is no quiet time. We've allowed the demands of time to be made on our every little corner of the day. And I never saw it. I never realized that this obligation, or that activity, or those events had effectively robbed us entirely of the buffer I'd thought we guarded so carefully. And the funny thing is that if you'd asked me about each thing, individually, I'd have defended each item as being Beneficial and Worthwhile. Taken as a whole, though, I'm not convinced. Our lives have not been significantly richer the past six months. They've not been more enjoyable (although we are not miserable by any means). They've just been... Busy.

And I've continued to try to pack our home life, our studies, our projects, and our downtime into what little space is left. No wonder it's felt like we're swimming with only one arm against an undertow.

So, something's got to give. I'm not sure what, or how. That's going to take some family time and discussion. It may be that we decide to keep it all and pare down the home goals, but I doubt it. I think we need to rebuild the buffer and rethink our priorities. Or, at least, I do. This one's all on me.

It's good to know, though. Meal planning for this week was a snap, at least! And hopefully by next week, we'll have a clearer idea of the path forward.

And I'm reminded of the phrase, "Live Intentionally". I know better than to let life happen to us, than to relinquish my post at the lookout, or neglect my duties at the helm. (Reminds me of another adage: "Be vigilant, for nothing one achieves lasts forever". *aherm* Yes. Well.) We must be diligent in our choices, and make each decision as if it is taken at the expense of all the other choices, because it is. Let it be worth the trade, so that we do not look back over our lives with more "If only..." than there has to be. (The natural learning curve of Life somewhat necessarily mandating that there will always be some, at least.) And so, we will live intentionally,

and kiss those babies.


Saturday, November 10

Weird Family Traditions

Not much going on today. I culled and cleaned. The guys split wood. (This will be a recurring theme.) Zorak and I did enjoy dinner so very much. Not only was the food good (pulled pork, homemade slaw, leftover pintos - always better the second day), but the kids were on a roll. They are ridiculously funny, and their inside jokes keep one another in stitches. It's like having front row seats to a well-oiled comedy team. We laughed and listened, and generally enjoyed the entire evening.

And then, the guys settled in for what I jokingly refer to as their "stories". (Did your mother watch soap operas?) They are watching The Walking Dead. It's become A Thing they do. After supper a couple of nights a week, we let the Littles play video games or watch a movie in the basement (it's like a game room - not like we just shove them into a cellar for an hour), while Z and the Bigs spool up their show. They call me in to come watch with them, because they're cool like that. It *is* a good show. But, I get... tense. So I have to get up and walk around, switch out some laundry, get a cup of coffee at... crucial moments. Drives them nuts. "Mom! MOM! You're missing it!" Either one day they will understand, or they'll go to their graves thinking their mother just didn't know how to have a good time. Regardless, they're building memories. I hope they're good ones.

Deer season starts next week, the stores have the holiday displays in full swing, and the electric bill has mellowed out for the winter. That's all such comforting stuff. The kids are talking about making Christmas presents, and they're ready to get moving. After seeing what they did for birthdays this year, I'm looking forward to it!

We'll probably have to split more wood, first, though.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, September 10

This Is Not A Productive Week

Yeah, I know, it's only Monday. But we're not exactly shooting right out of the gate this week.

Everyone was up early this morning because there were presents to open! (We didn't get home from our ride until around ten last night, and there was no way I was going to give the kid a remote control helicopter, a Trilobite kit, and a video game, then tell him to get some shut eye. Even for me, that would have been pretty clueless.) So up, up, UP they were, bright and stinking early.

He opened his presents, and was so genuinely delighted with each one. MeWa and MeTae gave him the coolest Smithsonian set - Trilobites, a Volcano kit, and an archeological dig set. Wee! (And we're doing Ancients this year! Double Win!)

But the gift that took the spotlight was the one from EmBaby and Jase: they wrote him a letter...

... and made him a paper doll set, complete with a crocodile, a lion, a bridge, a shrub, a guy, a gun, and a zombie!

Look at the detail on that - the little gun, for fighting zombies, is detachable! Oh, my gosh, Zorak and I were speechless - it was the sweetest, most delightful, thoughtful present we've ever seen. I wish we had a camera other than on the phone, because the details are fantastic - the lion's mane, and the crocodile's jaws - all of it, just neat. They made this a week ago, and have kept it a secret the whole time. None of us, not even the big boys, knew what they'd made.

And Jacob's reaction? Total icing on the cake - he took out each figure, commented on some aspect of it, set them up, let the littles explain all the details. I think he got how special that gift was. Z and I will never forget it.

After that, it was pretty much all fun and games. The Trilobites are incubating in their environment on the dresser, the helicopter logged many flight hours, and it has been decided that the dolls need to be laminated so that they won't ever get torn or destroyed. Sure, we got a little school done, but really, nobody was paying attention. That's okay. You only turn nine once.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, August 20

Not Like Any August, Ever

I hesitate to say anything, but this August has *rocked* in Northern Alabama. Temps have remained in the nearly-reasonable 90's, the humidity hasn't gone over 100% more than maybe twice*, and so far nothing has landed on the house or the car! Someone's been Very Good, I suspect. Wow.

So we've been braving the out-of-doors more this year -- going to the river, on hikes, to the park, canoeing. We didn't spend nearly as much time at the water park this Summer as I'd hoped to, but some of that was because we weren't sweltering and desperate for relief the whole time. (June. June was awful. But after that, Mother Nature backed off the ire and we recovered.) We did get some good use out of it, though. I only lost one child, one time (which is pretty darned good, all things considered), and nobody got burnt at all this summer! No, I take that back. Zorak and the boys all got sunburned shins on a canoe trip with the Scouts a couple of weeks back. But that wasn't on my watch, so I don't have to claim it. BOOYAH! First time, ever!

We're in Week 5 at school, and so far, we're... pretty darned slow. Wow. We seem busy. We feel busy. But we're not laying tracks like we'd thought. So today, the kids brainstormed a new schedule, to be implemented tomorrow morning. No clue how it's going to go, but finding out is half the adventure, right? (That face you just made? Same one they made when I used that phrase this morning.) In all, though, it's going really well. EmBaby's reading more fluidly - her accent is killing us in the phonics, but she's starting to clear those hurdles. (I've never had one with an accent before. This is a whole new ballgame!) Jacob's just rolling through it to get to the books. I can't keep him in books. (Yeah, I know. Third child this age, you'd think he'd be inundated. I guess not.) John finally got a good callous from playing guitar. He feels legit, now, and it's given him a renewed vigor in many areas. And James is kicking into high gear is so many areas. Mostly after 11:30 or so in the morning, but once he's caught a gear, he can *go*.

For me, the big excitement so far was hearing John announce that he *likes* Latin. One day, Dwane Thomas at Visual Latin, and the good folks at Memoria Press (thank you for First Form!) will receive cookies, or brownies, or a copy of someone's NLE results with a thank you note. That's some crazy joy, there.

And the rest of Summer? Well, things don't always go as planned. We did get the sand - uh, this past Saturday. The windows we'd been putting in, one at a time, all went on clearance (not to be re-stocked  - ACK!) so we snagged all we needed in one size, and we now have new windows along the whole front of the house. We'll be eating beans and rice for the next three months, but the marked improvement in insulation is worth it already.

Oh, and okra! Our mad gardening skills have once again yielded insane amounts of okra. Not much else - maybe one cucumber, a handful of squash, two and a half tomatoes... we'll spend the Autumn pickling okra and giving thanks that we do not have to rely solely on what we grew for Winter sustenance. Again. Amen.

Kiss those babies!

* Tongue in cheek. Mostly.