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

Saturday, January 20

The Birthday Outing

So, it was 11 degrees on Em's birthday. Not inside, obviously, (thankfully) but just knowing it's that cold has an impact. We didn't even get dressed until noon. So, the manicure and the lunch with the boys will have to wait.

BUT, we did go out that day, and we fed her little heart.

First, we went to Anthropologie. I don't shop there. Mainly, because I have very little money. And I have to explain what I've done with it, which would be very hard to do if I spent the entire grocery budget on a throw pillow and a new coffee mug. However, I knew that it would satisfy an aspect of her heart to just BE in that environment. To see things that were designed with an aesthetic that she appreciates. To touch fabrics you don't find at Target or Kohl's, and to peer into designs that are inspired by something bigger than things close to home. To be inspired by what can be done when you have a vision.

We were there for an hour and a half, folks. An hour and a half in a tiny store, and she was not bored for a second. She was awed, and she was thrilled, and she was just quietly enthralled. I followed her around, letting her explain everything to me.

"Mom, feel this bead pattern, now feel this one. See how they feel different?" (For the record, no. My hands are calloused and I hadn't thawed out from the walk to the store yet. But I listened, and smiled, because she was showing me how she experiences the world.)

"Oh, look how they get different results with different knots. Also, they used knots. That's brilliant."

"Ohhhhh, squeeze this. Just grab it in your hands. Isn't that fantastic?"

"We need to find out where you can get this fabric and make one of these."

"Did you touch that plate? You should. It's amazing."

She comes to a dead stop. "Sniff, right here. Do you smell that? What is that?" So we sniffed around and couldn't find the source. We asked an employee to help us find it. She couldn't, either. We have no idea what we were smelling, but it was Stop You In Your Tracks lovely.

Then, we headed to Justice, where she got what I can only describe as her Tween Uniform.


It's adorable. Blessedly, they have a lot of decent, cute stuff this year. It's not an Anthropologie wardrobe, but it works. The ladies who work there were so kind and fun. They made the visit enjoyable. She got a water bottle that the boys won't steal and lose. She got some leggings and some t-shirts. We laughed and poked around. It was a very different vibe, but just as fun.

And now, she is 12. Gosh.

I haven't said it in a while, because (obviously) they aren't babies anymore, but still ...

Kiss those babies!

~ Dy


Monday, January 15

Birthday Ideas

I've accidentally published this post twice without meaning to because the pads of my hands keep bumping the little track pad on my laptop, tabbing me all over the place, one spot of which seems to be the Publish button. I need a little pad protector to put on it so that I can type without having to worry about my fat hands engaging that pad. (James would say I need to install Linux, which has a two-second delay before the thing activates, or something like that. I am almost there ...)

Anyway, with Em's birthday coming up, I started pestering her for ideas back in August. Because that's how you have to do with the gentle thinkers. You can't just hit them up at Costco the day of and say, "What do you want to do today? Sky's the limit!" They freeze, and you end up buying them an .89 bladder buster and a 30-roll pack of paper towels. I learned this the hard way.

After much mulling and thinking (seriously - it was January before she got back to me on most of this), she decided she'd like to get her ears pierced, get a manicure (she's hoping this will help her not bite her nails), go to lunch with the boys, and redo her room.

So, we started putting a plan in action. She got her ears pierced this weekend.


I've no clue on the manicure, and haven't had the bandwidth to track that down, but I'll do that today. Lunch with the boys will be at the 88. That's where they eat. It's what they do. It's their thing. It's also the only place in town you can get spicy squid, which is Very Important to Jase. (And? All this time, I had no idea they had a website. That's so cool!)

Her room is functional, but it's a mash-up of Stuff Her Brothers Didn't Want, Stuff She's Duct Taped or Sewn, and then things that usually began with, "Oh, crap, you probably need sheets (shelves, hangers, etc.), don't you?" So, it's functional, but other than the constant craft debris littering the floor, you'd never guess anyone lived there on purpose. She wanted to fix that.

She's been going through it, fixing up what she can with what we had on hand (this isn't as sad as it sounds - we have a lot on hand) and making a list of what she'll need. She's been making little changes, such as snagging a mint green sheet from the linen closet to go with her pink bedding, hanging lights above the window shades, adding pastels here and there, hanging drawings on the walls.

She asked if we can paint her bookshelf white with pink, yellow and blue distressed spots. (I said yes before I realized we were actually going to have Winter this year. We have to paint in the garage or outside, so she may be able to do that for Easter. Or Memorial Day. It's not happening on her actual birthday, though.)

Last week, she asked if she could "do something about that sad brown lamp shade". Of course. Good thing she'd asked for "virtually unlimited duct tape" and "gel pens of my very own" for Christmas! It's the gift that keeps on giving.



I only recently realized that what she really asked for for her birthday was to be left alone to craft. LOL! Clever girl. So that's what we shall do for her birthday - give her glue and stay out of the way. It's how she knows she's loved.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy










Wednesday, January 3

The Nutcracker

Well, THIS was exciting. A year ago, Jacob sat in the farthest row of the highest balcony at the Von Braun Center and watched, mesmerized, as The Nutcracker played out before us. He leaned forward, spellbound, the entire performance, but particularly watching the men's parts - the Nutcracker Prince, the Rat King, the dolls. He was captivated by the power and strength of the dancers. When he asked if he could do that, we had no idea that this December would find him backstage, preparing for his own parts.

All week, he kept whispering at random, "This is what started it all. And I'm here." He was in a bit of a dream world.

He gave his all to every role. As a Party Teen, he was so exuberant and festive. He was so, so great with the little ones on stage. He was a delight to watch.


As a gypsy, he was beautiful and vibrant. I got to watch from the wings one night when he danced that part, and the look on his face as he landed in the final position ... I will carry that image with me to my grave. I've never seen him look so happy, so at home (and this is a kid who is at home in most any setting, so that's saying something).


As half of the dragon, he was entertaining and delightful.

But most of all, he was kind, considerate, and engaged. He even goofed around with me a little bit!


The atmosphere backstage of a Huntsville Ballet Company production is one of the most professional, courteous, and team-driven endeavors I've ever been fortunate enough to witness. (I got to help, too, which was fabulous. Everyone should help backstage at least once, just to appreciate what goes into making the magic happen when the curtain goes up.) I could not have been more proud of him, or more pleased with where he is. They're a good fit, and I'm thankful for that.

For all the things we wish we could go back and do differently, or do better, I really feel like we've hit the sweet spot in encouraging them to pursue excellence, and to work hard at what they love. It's one thing to dream, but it's another to put your effort and hard work into achieving it. That's huge, and I am so thankful that he's doing just that.

Be encouraged!

Dy


Monday, January 1

So, what do you do with all your extra time?

And I thought I'd be able to write more once we moved! That's so cute!


We're moved in. We're loving life Five Minutes From Everything. It's truly very nice. The boys appreciate the extra study time for school, the extra bits of sleep in the mornings, and the ability to pop out to a movie or coffee with friends, or Bible study without having to pack a full daypack and hydration bladder to make it happen. The Nutcracker performance week, and tech week leading up to it, were smooth and efficient and wonderful.

Personally, I'm loving the ability to call housing if there's mold, or if something breaks, and these delightful men arrive within an hour to fix it. There's no having to put it in the budget, shop around for parts, and then carve out time to make it happen. I really, really love our maintenance team!

That said, Z got a job offer ... Out West. New Mexico. (I'll write about that whole set up at another time.) The offer came in shortly after we'd signed the lease on base. It's a good move, with promotion potential. It puts him closer to family, able to help out more often, and it might even afford him a path to Colorado one day (something that just isn't an option from here). It made sense for him to take it. He expected a start date in the Spring, but they had the day before Thanksgiving (this Thanksgiving) in mind. Uh, no? What? No relocation package, and you want us to move when? Uh-uh. He negotiated to start the second week in December, though, which bought us a little time to finish all the things on the Forever Home. (New carpet, new back deck, replaced the flooring in the kitchen, installed a lovely new exterior door in the master bedroom, and the Holy Grail of my last five years, the beadboard ceiling in the kitchen/living area! It's gorgeous!) Then he left. *poof* He's staying with his brother and sister-in-law, who were so very gracious to open their home to him. The kids and I will follow sometime this Summer.

We couldn't uproot and go right now. James is going to stay behind. He has a wonderful job, and he's survived the first semester of college (he has no humanities this coming semester, so he'll likely knock out a 4.0 on that one). But he was staying at home and commuting - we couldn't shuffle him into the dorms at the last minute. John's pursuing his EMT certification, and we couldn't just yank him out of that. And Jacob is dancing with the Junior Company for the Huntsville Ballet (this is the first step in their pre-professional study track, and he is wholly committed to it). He might just turn into a real, live Gollum if we pulled him out of that and dumped him in an unknown community past the audition dates for anything. So. We're staying until we can extricate ourselves a bit less violently. We want the move to be good, for everyone involved, and that's how we're moving forward. Being separated isn't much fun (less fun for Z, who doesn't have the routines and familiar surroundings to buffer him), but we both acknowledge that a few months out of 22 years together isn't going to break us, or warp us, or damage us. We'll be fine.

Good Times. Or, it will be Good Times. Right now, it's all just a bit surreal. We haven't listed the Forever Home yet, because there's a beautiful, wonderful family that wants it. They've listed their home, and we're all just waiting on their house to sell. If it hasn't sold by Spring, or if they give up, then we've found a realtor and will list it with him. In the meantime, we're floating two and a half homes through the Winter. It will be okay. But they need it. They really do. It's worth the wait. No regrets, there.

And now, we have a routine. We have a plan. We have a little breathing room. Later than we'd anticipated, but it's here. That's good.

Welcome to 2018!


Tuesday, October 10

Seven Days

I told you I was like a kid at Christmas!


I'm half planning to load up my bed, a suitcase, a box of bacon and the coffee press, and call it good. If they want anything else, they can come back for it. Oh, and the patio furniture - I do love our patio furniture. That should be plenty, right?

We had a week off from ballet while the school was on fall break. Nearly missed trash day, woke Z up early on a day he didn't have to go to work, and accomplished very little in the way of returning library books that week. Evidently, we can't use a calendar without some kind of external anchor to remind us what day it is. Also, to Jacob's Russian teacher, I apologize. He comes by it honestly.

However, I remembered that I can, in fact, cook quite well when I have the time to do it. So, that's been fun. I'm really looking forward to getting settled and doing more in the kitchen again.

We animal-sat for friends over the long weekend. It was good, and we're glad we were able to help them out, but we are so not cut out for farm life. It probably would have been easier if we didn't live 50 minutes away, and often had to wear the rest of the day whatever we wore to tend the animals. That was kind of gross. Or, if we had any idea what might cause a goat to fall over. That was scary. (The goat is fine, and John rocked the medic training - he devised a carry sling and we let him tell us what to do, so we didn't completely suck at whatever it was we were supposed to be doing.) They'll be back today, and I am so incredibly glad.

Today is John's last day at work. They've been so good to him, and it was a wonderful experience for a first time job. With the move, though, he'd be working to earn the gas money to drive ... to work. Plus, he starts clinicals near the end of this semester, and that will take up a lot of additional time. He picks up another class at the CC on the 21st, as well. He has a plan and he's moving on it. It's neat to stand back and see that play out, see where he wants to go and how he's making it happen.

Today is also the last Harried Tuesday! Hurrah! No more! This time next week, I can drop Jacob at ballet and GO HOME to wait! There shall be scones! (We tweaked a keto bagel recipe and it's like lovely, decadent scones, only with scads of protein and few carbs. So good!)

Be encouraged!

Dy


Tuesday, October 3

14 Days

In 14 days, we move. Because it's a local move, I can't convince anyone in the house that it's a legitimate move or that it needs any actual preparation. I guess we'll teleport.



Whatever works, folks. Whatever works. I don't have the bandwidth to force the issue on the front end, so I'm just going with it for now and I'll fix it the following week, when everyone is surprised that their approach wasn't terribly efficient.

If Life has taught me anything (and it has, actually, taught me many things), the most recent is that sometime you just have to step back and let people do what they will. This is, perhaps the hardest lesson for me, so far.

Maybe.

Actually, I think any lesson is the hardest lesson (ever!) when we're in the middle of learning it, don't you think? It's not until after you've mastered the skill, or internalized the lesson that it becomes easy and self-evident. I'll be truthful with you - I am soooo ready for me to master this Letting Go thing. Just let it go. Let it be. It's fine. No worries.

In (mostly) unrelated news, we're spooling up on our wine knowledge. Ha. No, really, that is unrelated. We're doing the research now to see about the viability of a vineyard on the family ranch. We've sent in soil samples and met with a viticulture specialist. That's very exciting, and as with any industry or endeavor, there is so much to learn! It's overwhelming, but it's also exciting.

And there's wine.

So, serendipity, and all that. 😉

Tuesday, August 15

Brilliant Plans and... Other Ones

Yesterday was a rest day. Well, it was a school day and a rest day. OK, actually, it was a school day, a few small projects, a little more cleaning, and a rest day. But when Jase talked to Z about his day, he told him it was a rest day, "so we didn't do much but hang out, eat and read". Then he gave me credit for it! So it's officially going down as a rest day that I instituted. Because I don't often get credit for the occasional cool things I do. (This incident is not a prime example, since it wasn't actually a rest day, but I don't even mind at this point.)

We replaced the worn dry erase board in the linen closet door and cleaned and repainted the air return register. We washed some more walls. We made more lists. John had Favorite Child status for several hours because he dug around in the basement to find the panel that I knew was down there but which none of us had seen in ages. Many people thought it was a myth. I had even begun to think perhaps we'd thrown it out at some point. But no, he found it! And he cut a new panel and got it switched out.

Today, we all overslept. I awoke at 7:37, immediately registered that we were behind the 8-ball for an 8 o'clock hair appointment, and bolted out of bed to wake everyone else. AND we made it! We weren't coherent, or clean, or functional, but we were there. After that, and a hair cut, I needed a full-on shower. I was still a little sleepy, however, and didn't want to do the bag-wrap-tape routine on my finger (I sliced the tip off last week - rookie mistake that's more irritating and inconvenient than damaging, thankfully). So I grabbed a mechanic's glove. It worked great until I reached down to shave and the glove immediately filled up with water! Oops! Lesson learned - tape the wrist!

Jacob got his schedule recommendations today, so we're plugging things into grids to see what's going to work. I found a lot of schedule templates online that skip weekends, or end at 5. None were quite what I needed, but then I found one from Apache, an Open Office spreadsheet that was dead handy. If you use Open Office and need a planner template, this one's quite functional. I had to tweak the margins on my page set up a titch to get it to print on one page, but it's pretty good, otherwise.

We're all about to head into a completely new world with school. I feel like we're skydiving for the first time -- no clue what to expect and vaguely surprised to find us here even though this was the plan and we very intentionally got to this place. It's so strange. If you're kindly inclined, please keep all of the young men and women who are heading off to college, to internships, to work, in your prayers. They're in for some amazing adventures, but it doesn't hurt to have people actively pulling for you.

Be encouraged!

Dy

Saturday, July 1

Good Saturday Morning!

It is T-2 until liftoff! How ridiculously exciting!

The Littles and I visited Miri and the Babies yesterday. She set it up for them to make homemade wikki stix, which was very cool and I think we're going to have to do that again in the future! The kids played while we visited, and although I really didn't want to run more errands yesterday, it was nice to do something for the Littles. And a little something for me, getting to spend time with a sweet friend.

While we were in town, we ran errands, as well. Found stuff sacks large enough to use as bear bag bags (which is awesome, thank you, Cabela's!) And lashing straps for John's pack (although I should have bought the ones at Walmart last week, to be honest - longer and less expensive for the same material, there). Live and learn.

Today, John and I will do the final pack up and make sure everything is secure, there's room for additional troop gear and the tents, and see if we've forgotten anything. Honestly, I've got food, I've got a good sleeping pad (and a repair kit), and I've got proper clothing. Anything beyond that is gravy at this point. We're ready to hit the trail.

Oh! My new Vibrams came in yesterday, too! I realized that I've trained in this one pair the whole time, plus our teen hikes, plus I wear them to the river, to the store, to work on the property... It's been a good year! The last thing I wanted, however, was to have a blowout on the trail and get stuck buying boots at the camp after I've done all my training in these. So I ordered the same size, style, and brand that I've been wearing. They look so pretty and new! And, seeing them side-by-side, I was glad I got another pair! The soles on my first pair are not as, erm, healthy as they seemed. Fortunately, once you're used to wearing Vibrams (which can take some time), the shoes themselves don't have the break-in period for a new pair that traditional shoes require, so they should be good to go by the end of this week. I'm taking the old ones as camp shoes and back up, though. Figure they deserve to see the desert mountains one more time.

Gotta pack for Circe today, too, and get my suitcase to a friend. She's going to meet me there with it so I'm not traveling with a week's worth of business attire to Philmont! I need to find her something that says, "I do not know what I'd do without you!" Maybe a mug that literally says that. But I'd have to fill it with gold bullion or Amazon gift cards or something, because she's really that amazing. And not just for her mad luggage hauling skills, either!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, June 21

New Schedules, New Days, New Foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, June 18

SO, I didn't die.

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

THE GOOD:

1. I didn't die!

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

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

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


THE BAD:

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

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

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

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

THE UGLY:

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

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

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

******

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, June 16

No Big News

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

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

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

*whimper*

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, June 7

The Gauntlet Is Run!


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

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


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

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



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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

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

Wednesday, May 31

Fast Arrivals and Sudden Stops

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

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

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

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

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

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

And rest.

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

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

I hope your last week of May is going beautifully!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, May 24

More Progress, and Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, May 22

Waiting Games and Schedules

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

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

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

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

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

School
House prep

The plan for Tuesday is school and house prep.

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

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!

~Dy

Tuesday, January 3

Praying

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!

~Dy


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!
~Dy

Monday, December 19

Party Fun

We made it to the church's Christmas party last night, and I am so glad we went. (It was dark, and cold, and we were kind of ready to pile up on the couch and watch Foyle's War...) But we went, and I am so glad we did!

The teens took The Resistance to play - it's a guaranteed ice breaker, and, in fact, the families with teens were the last to leave because they were waiting on the kids. Gotta love that.

We brought ice cream cones for the little ones to decorate as trees, with frosting and sprinkles. Yes, I brought sugar. I know. But the sticky thank you hugs I got were totally worth it.

Father Geoff came dressed as a Wise Man. He also brought Frankincense (in the form of incense), which was rather clever. Next year, we're going to have to step up our "festive garb" game, for sure.

The food was amazing. The hosts had a shrimp boil, and everyone brought sides to share. There's just something about shared food... it's good for the soul. It's good to nourish and be nourished in turn, and while "potluck" doesn't sound particularly inspiring, it's actually quite an ennobling way to gather for a feast when you think about it.

And people shared - they shared their happy memories of years past, their concerns and hope for the years to come, their experiences and their ideas. Truly, it was a wonderful evening. Totally worth staying dressed and braving the cold for!

I'm not sure what series of thoughts brought this plan to fruition,
but it's hilarious and I could not resist a photo of it.

Shopping With the Lone Girl

Em is such a happy, sweet, insightful girl. She brings us a balance of beauty and surprise. She's also got the straight man shtick down like a pro, and we often have to do a double take to tell if she's joking. Occasionally, she'll be trying to talk about something lovely, or thoughtful, and a brother will pop off with a fart joke... that's when she turns to me and says, "Would you please get me a sister?" But most of the time, she's pretty content with her home of males.

The other day, I took her Christmas shopping with me. We haven't really done that before, which I hadn't realized. Christmas shopping for a large family in a small house is a series of insane acrobatic maneuvers and online shopping. That's just the only way to do it. And we don't really do "girls day out", or shop-for-fun, or things like that. It's not some moral thing on my part, just not something we get around to. The kids are usually divvied up by age groups or interest, not gender, and while some of it is logistics, some of it is practicality. We do things together, and we thoroughly enjoy them, just not shopping. But this time, we did. Just she and I. And she was *shocked* at how expensive it is to buy Christmas gifts for half a dozen people.

First, though, she needed pants. We've been so blessed with hand-me-downs for her that we seldom need to buy her more than socks, unders, and shoes. Not really exciting stuff. But right now, if the pants are long enough, you could fit two of her in the waistband. If they fit in the waist, they're capris. Not so great for winter wear.

Now, this is my secret Achilles heel. The boys have their styles, and those styles are functional, straightforward, and... not a lot of fun to shop for. Black and soft, or OD Green and sturdy -- Bam, done. But her? She's a wild card on style - color, texture, fabric choice - it's a world of possibility! I love to window shop for her and, had she been an only child, we'd probably be broke from impulse buys because I wouldn't have had the boys there to whisper, "Focus. We're here for socks, Mom. Focus." Plus, because she's so readily pleased, it's even more fun. She is, however, incredibly practical. She found a style of pant that is comfortable and feels good and she was ready to go. I had to convince her to at least get a couple pairs, maybe in different colors. Couldn't talk her into the long plaid tunics or the adorable print leggings, but she agreed to get a couple of long sleeve shirts to supplement her current options. Then she spied a pair of cranberry jeans like mine, and she loved them. "These are just like yours!" So we got those, too, because how fun is that? (I could not pay the boys to wear matching clothes with me on purpose! Gonna take this win while I can.) Eventually, she was squared away and then she proceeded to herd me back to checkout by whispering, "Focus. We're here for Christmas gifts, Mom. Focus."

Then we hit the serious Christmas shopping -- goodies for John and Jacob, and the perfect gift for James... just-the-thing for Jase (she'd found it in September and has been reminding me daily, so I don't forget - thank God they hadn't sold out yet). We stopped for lunch, and wrapped it up in time to join the boys at Game Day. (I've been shuffling bags from room to room ever since. We should have bought wrapping paper while we were out!)

The restaurant where we ate lunch was a little loud, and it was hard to hear, so she started signing to me across the table. BRILLIANT! We had a mostly-silent lunch, punctuated by bouts of laughter and her declaration that this is really useful for loud spaces.

I think it took going out shopping for the boys to kick start her into thinking of things she would like to have. Up until now, she'd asked for a set of Perler beads and that. was. it. Yesterday, she handed me her notebook to show me that she'd made a list. It is so sweet. (Please ignore the spelling and my weird shadow puppet action, there.)


A sharpie? Her own sharpie. That's a pretty sane request in this house. I might ask for one, too. And I think I know just the place to find a perfect replacement blanket.

Be encouraged!
~Dy