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

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!


Tuesday, January 3


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!


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!

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!

Friday, July 8

Well, that was awesome. And I need to work on my geography.

We ran away. Just piled the kids in the car, hired the Most Wonderful Housesitter in the World to stand in for us, and took off to Colorado for a week. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.

Having two additional drivers made the trip a total breeze. They are expensive to insure, thanks to the unpredictability of that Y chromosome, and they are expensive to feed, thanks to... well, I'm not sure what's going on, there, but it's costly. But boy, are they worth it on a road trip!

We've made the drive Out West many times over the last 12 years, so I didn't really plan the route or make reservations (like I do that on a first-run? whatever. anyway. This is probably why Z doesn't like it when I travel while he's gone*.) We loaded up, I asked them to fire up the navigator and off we went. I didn't actually look at the navigator, and we leave it muted. In hindsight, this is tantamount to drugging your map reader and making him ride in the back seat blindfolded. At any rate, it didn't dawn on me that we might be taking a different route when we went through Nashville instead of Memphis. Or rather, I figured there was road work, or a giant accident, maybe even an alien landing, that may have re-routed us. When we hit Kentucky, though, and Jacob announced, "I've never been to Kentucky!" I realized we were on foreign ground for getting from Here to There. And I was not entirely certain how or why we were there.

Then we hit Illinois. And I know that I took geography, and did rather well in it, but in my head, Illinois has Chicago (which it does, but not the way my brain interprets that information), and that meant we were very near the Great Lakes (no, we weren't), which, based on what I had decided was a rapidly deteriorating grasp of geography, was probably not the fastest way to get to Colorado from Alabama...

But we were on a road trip, so what the heck. We'll trust Google. Either it'll pan out, or we'll be seeing Mt. Rushmore around lunchtime tomorrow, right?

Missouri came next (as it is wont to do, if you're traveling West through Southern Illinois, but I made a mental note to spend more time on North American geography with the Littles, at least. It's too late for the older ones, who also vaguely suspected we had just veered way north, then way south, and where were we going, anyhow? I promised to drop a few bucks into their therapy jar when we returned home).

It was at this point that I had to pull over and see just WHERE we were, and how we were going to get where we wanted to go. From the looks of it, Kansas was next (that was another total surprise - I've been to nearly every state in the Continental US and have somehow never actually been in Kansas. I think). And it's about an hour and a half shorter than the route we usually take (score one for the creepy-yet-effective Google algorhithms!) So on we went.

If I had planned ahead, or even looked at the map beforehand, we could have seen friends on the way. Actually, now that I realize they don't live eight days' travel by boxcar from our place, we may be able to see them more often.

Texts with Z were fun.

"How's it?"

"Good. Just stopped at the weirdest gas station I think I've ever seen. Heading your way, now."

"What was it?"

"Bernie's. If they weren't so far out in the middle of nowhere, I'm prety sure they'd have to answer for some severe copyright violations. The logo looks like The Walking Dead hit the Weekend at Bernie's set and did some damage."

"...where are you?"


"Why are you in Kansas?"

"I have no idea. But we'll be there tonight! Gotta go, John's driving."

Probably didn't do a lot to make him more comfortable with the idea of me dragging the children on road trips without him. I see that, now. Maybe I'll do better next time. Probably not. We had a lot of fun! And we made it safely to Colorado, where we spent a wonderful week exploring, hiking, trying to think of ways to convince Z that we should all move into a small apartment above a store in Manitou Springs...

*Note: his reluctance to embrace me road tripping without him has nothing to do with my capabilities or lack thereof (hey, we made it in one piece, in record time). It has to do with the idea of everything he values most in this world hurtling across the planet in a metal box, surrounded by potential psychopaths and texting drivers while he is far, far away and unable to do anything about any of it. And maybe a little bit of my refusal to learn to make an itinerary. But mostly it's just the "I love you, please be safe, why don't you wait and we'll all go to Florida together when I get back" kind of thing. It's sweet. I appreciate it, even if I don't always show it.

And now, we are home.

Be encouraged!

Friday, August 28

Crazy Good Week

I love those. The kind of week that brings beautiful weather (that it's been in August is a double-bonus), good food (menu plan for the win!), and fun interactions with the kids (on top of, or in lieu of, the regular routine of "do you have this" and "did you do that" and "seriously, please just get up"...)

We're at about 85% on schooling. My goal for August was 50%, so W00t! I'm not sure what it will look like once we add Chemistry to the schedule and Latin's in full-swing, but we're about to find out. Every year, it's like we're new here. Some things don't change, and to some extent you do hit your stride and feel like you can say you're a veteran homeschooler. Some things, though, seem to morph and change each year and you're starting over. I may have seen two others through 7th grade, but this is JakeRabbit's first year as a 7th grader... SURPRISE!

Em and Jase have been prepared to hate everything. So far, they've loved all of it. We chose Memoria Press' Insects study for science -- they do nature study regularly, but I thought a few years of focused instruction on specifics within the animal and plant kingdoms would be beneficial. This way, we aren't always having to look up what we find - sometimes it's a nice treat to be out and about and be able to say, "Oh, look! I've found a such-and-such!" or "Ohhh, the whatsits are out!" Huge win. There's a certain boost a child gets from checking out a library book and discovering he already knows the terminology in it. Or from seeing an unidentified animal in a book and realizing he knows what it is (thank you, Google, for providing verification on that one - totally made his day!)

And last night was Shakespeare in the Park, up in Nashville. (It's actually running until mid-September -- if you can make it, you are in for a treat! Check it out at Nashville Shakes.) They're doing Henry V. We had a wonderful group of young men and fun parents. The whole evening was, as is normal for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, top notch and magical.

Soon, we'll be back to ballroom dance, Jr. Master Gardener, classes and outings and fun. Plus, Fall is coming!!

Be encouraged!

Wednesday, November 19

Overwhelmed By Stuff

I keep trying to write, but the words that come aren't terribly uplifting. I'm tired. I'm irritable. I want to hire a team of mafia cleaners to come in and eradicate the house of identifying marks. (OK, mainly paper. Paper and stray socks.) They can take the stack of stuff I need to mail with them on the way out and deal with that, too.

Every single problem I have is not a problem. I get that. Doesn't stop me from wanting to go back to bed and read in peace. (Why does Neal Stephenson write such long, engrossing stories? He needs to get into writing short stories. That might help.) But life is good.

James received his Life rank at the Court of Honor this week. He's been working hard on that, and the reality that Eagle is on his plate hit him this week. He's excited/stunned/mildly surprised that it (meaning his entire childhood) happened so quickly. I love that kid.

Em and Jase joined a local My Little Pony club. They made ornaments this month, then played and ate. Perfect. The room was packed with 18 6-8 year-old boys and girls, and it was adorable.

And so, everyone is hunkered down for Winter, which came early and enthusiastically. The kids are hoping this means we'll have snow. I've reminded them that most people who live in the South do so out of a desire to avoid snow, so we don't mention this hope in public. We just fire up the wood stove and enjoy some downtime.

I think I'm going to go burn some stray papers. Maybe socks.


Wednesday, November 5

November, What A Great Month

Having a great month so far! (Yeah, it's the fifth. I've decided to call it early and just enjoy the rest of it, whatever comes.)

Jacob managed to get a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup out of the wrapper without skinning the bottom. He was very excited (as I figured when I saw this on my phone --->)

We had a party on Halloween. It wasn't a scary, gory party - mainly because nobody would have come, and parties are more about the people who come and enjoy time together than they are about props or themes or decorations. (Thank God, because even for other holidays, I pretty much stink at any of that.) But I do miss grown-up costume parties. And I wanted to have some fun with the day, too. So I bought sparkly silver eyelashes. The children were scandalized. (Evidently, that's not appropriate attire for a Good Mother. I had to take my own picture, with my short little dinosaur arms that are not made for selfies. And what appears to be a fish eye lens... I'm not sure what's up with that.)

I'll be honest, I couldn't see, and the sparkly bits threw light around and I kept dodging and twitching because it looked like things coming at me out of my periphery. But it was fun. Also, I have so much respect for anyone who can wear those things and dance. Clearly, I'm not going to be heading for the Vegas stage any time soon.

Em and Jase were *stoked* to find their pumpkins on the wall at the library. When you're in the under ten crowd, this is right up there with getting published or having your picture in the paper.

Jase looked so cute in his costume. But the flash on the phone is really bright, and it stays on a long time. So I got this shot, which was live-captioned by Jase, "Mom! You're blinding me! Ow!"

And that's been about it. We want to take December off to do fun things, so we're doubling down on November to take up the slack. We'll see how that goes. Should be fun!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 27

I Have Learned Something Very Important

We must use the wall calendar. October was absolutely harrowing as far as time management, and I've spent the last week trying to figure out how I dropped ALL THE BALLS in so many ways. It didn't make sense.

This morning I sat down with the boys to go over the calendar and Lo, and Behold - October is blank. We never filled in October's plan, and evidently the mantra, "If it isn't on the calendar, it doesn't happen" is more true than we realized.

Without it, the days zip past in a whirling blur of picking up, rushing out the door, and not having anything ready for dinner until it's way past bedtime. Without the trusty wall calendar, every event is a surprise and preparation fails to happen. I know this now.

Not that October was unpleasant. We had a lovely time.

We've been to museums...

And toured Cathedral Caverns...

Celebrated with friends...

And visited an apple orchard...

We did forensics labs with friends,

Enjoyed Historic Downtown Decatur during the 150th anniversary observance of the Battle for Decatur,

And captured this magnificent ruff at the Renaissance Faire! (James ducked down onto one knee when he requested the honor of taking a photograph with the Queen - I told him I wish I'd known he was going to do that because it was awesome and hilarious and caught me completely off guard so I didn't get a picture. He said he had no idea he was going to do it until he got in front of her and it just seemed like it had to be done. Love impromptu fun!)

So, all in all, it was a wonderful month. But November's calendar is filled in, if for no other reason than that I don't like eating at 9PM.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 3

Seasons in the Sun

We're learning to love Summer. Just a little bit.

There's always something historic to see, like the Observation Tower at Mt. Cheaha, built by the CCC in 1934, and painstakingly maintained by a team so that it can remain open and accessible to the public today:

Or to find, like the wildlife hiding in plain sight...

Or do... like playing in the water. This is probably the thing I appreciate the very most about living in Alabama - the water. Every place has history. Not every place has water.

The kids don't really take this for granted - they pick up trash along the way, leave the area cleaner than we found it, and they're respectful of the terrain and the things that live here. But they have no idea how good they've got it - this is normal for them. How cool is that? I was 20 before I got to swim to the base of a waterfall.

Still can't identify most of the plants that catch my eye, but that won't stop me from trying. It's all about getting experience by continuing to try until you get it right.

And then we headed out, and up. Funny, it didn't seem very far on the way in...

(I wrote this several days ago, but didn't post it. No idea why, but I'm going to blame the heat. Or maybe old age - I think I went off on rabbit trails to identify that flower and then suddenly, they wanted food again. That happens more than I'd like to admit.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, June 8

Starting to Feel It...

The heat, that is. It's been a wet, wet Spring, and that means 85 degrees feels significantly less do-able than 70 did. Stepping outside feels like a sort of sauna-meets-obstacle-course. Which is fine if you have athletic ability and... gills. For mere mortals, however, it's a little tricky.

Not stopping us, though!

This weekend was the annual Howard Hill Southern Traditional Archery Tournament. (This is commonly shortened to the "Howard Hill Shoot", and for the purposes of this post will be, "the shoot".) This shoot has been a dream of Z's for years. Back when we lived in the desert Southwest, it was one of those Someday things - too far away to be plausible for two broke kids, but cool enough to merit a standing spot on the list anyway. But now? Now we're less than two hours away from it!

And we all have bows again! So, of course we had to go! Ward came, and some other friends came. It was hot. It was humid. The sun shone, and the atmosphere was fun. The boys shot,

and shot...

Em and Jase hung in there for the whole trail (thank you, hiking group!),

...and I have clearly not lost the ability to laugh at myself.

Z was in his happy spot. It was a good day in our little world.

Oh! We got to see Byron Ferguson in action! AND we got to meet G. Fred Asbell! (If you're into traditional archery at all, you know why this is cool. If you're not, it's the equivalent of Classical homeschoolers getting to watch Andrew Kern lead a socratic discussion *and* visit with Martin Cothran. Very cool.) And, just like every time I get to see Kern and Cothran, I walked off yesterday in a happy haze without getting any pictures. But it happened. And it was awesome. Everyone's got next year's shoot penciled in.

Because of the rain, we didn't go down Friday, and had a spare day on our hands. The Huntsville and Madison Anime Convention (HAMACON) opened, so I took those who like it enough to spend their own money on admission, and we spent a surprisingly fun day at the convention center. Parent Passes are free, too! That was a pleasant bonus.

There was some incredible art, neat activities, special panels and discussions. There were also regular showings of interesting (either new, or particularly noteworthy, or unique) anime. The gentleman running the projector took the time to give introductions, insights, and some Q&A for the audience. We had fun. Nerdy, nerdy fun.

And, we got a cat. His name is Homer, in honor of the Homer Ball. He came home with the boys after a hike on Z's birthday.  (Z has never wanted a cat. Hence, the name.)

I think he's comfortable here.

Kiss those babies!