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

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

Thursday, July 27

The Fall School Plan, 2017-18

I've been making school plans since 2005. We began with one student and have slowly added to the roster every few years. This is the first year I didn't make one for James. He's off and running, doing his own thing - work, college, life. He went with friends to see Fiddler on the Roof while I was gone. He's budgeting tithe money, gas money, and savings. He's pre-reading his literature text over the Summer. I can't tell you how cool that is. He's got this. It's weird, but I was ready for it.

So I settled in to make firm John's plan, which we'd written down before we left for Philmont and I couldn't find Monday. Huh. We never found it, but we did eventually remember the details. He's taking all dual enrollment this year: EMT certification, ENG 101 (or whatever kids these days are calling it). Next semester he'll take Western Civ and College Algebra. That's 3/4 time enrollment both semesters. He'll keep working. He'll look for a new ballroom dance class that he and his girlfriend can take (their instructor retired at the end of this year - a very sincere loss for the students, although likely a much-needed reprieve for the instructor). He's got one more shot at the ACT for scholarship money in September, then he'll apply to JSU in October. That's it. I'm not instructing him in anything this year. That, I was not ready for.

It's OK, though, as Jacob seems to be taking up the slack left by his brothers. This kid has a jam-packed schedule and he is so excited about it! This is his Freshman year. He's a highschooler. Forgive me, but how is Smidge in High School? It boggles the mind. He'll be taking Geometry, Old Western Culture Greeks for history and literature, Home2Teach writing classes, Rocketry (a two-hour class, plus competitions), Ballet (as many classes as they will let him and we can afford), and three foreign languages (Latin, Russian, Spanish).

His reasoning is that this is a good year to do some searching about what he wants to study more in-depth. (I think he's also thinking that 12 foreign language credits would be pretty cool to have, but I don't know that he really understands what third-year Russian, Spanish, and Latin will look like with Calculus, ballet, and a strong humanities program like OWC. However, if he's willing to work hard at it and give it a shot, I'm all in as the support team. He'll have time to adjust as he goes, if needed. If I've learned nothing else from homeschooling this long, I've learned at least that we can adapt and adjust as we go, and that it doesn't hurt to set the bar high.) I'm actually pretty excited about working with him this year.

The Littles (still thinking of a new moniker for them) and I have a much better plan for this year than whatever it is we've been doing: we'll be library schooling while Jacob is in ballet classes. We did a trial run yesterday and it was lovely: tea and poetry, literature, history. Bonus of being able to go find ANY book we might need if the spirit prods us during our study time. (That actually makes me feel less anxious about packing our books away to stage the house.) Since part of Jacob's plan involves turning drive time into foreign language time, they're also getting additional exposure to Spanish, at least. We do math, science, and other topics when we get home.

That's it. Just three. This is so weird.

But it's good. The goal was to raise them up to be self-sufficient, independent, functioning young men and that's what's happening. So, win! I may not have been prepared to lose two in the same year, but I've got no actual complaints.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, June 21

New Schedules, New Days, New Foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, June 19

More Prep and Random Things

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

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

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

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

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

What's got you excited this month?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


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...

Thursday, May 25

College Orientation

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

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

And the overnight campus visit...

And the Honors Orientation.

Wee!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged! And take notes!

~ Dy

Friday, May 19

Little Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...the mailing of thank you notes.

I need to buy stamps.

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

Wednesday, May 17

I Got Stumped, But for Good Reason

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

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

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

About eating! Food! Nutrition and healing!

Really?

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

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

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

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

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

Best case of writer's block, ever.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Tuesday, April 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~Dy


Friday, April 7

Big Doings

Well, this has been an interesting week! Tomorrow is Round 2 of the ACT for John. He's been balancing study, work, test prep, Scouts, and sanity saving downtime like a champ. He's not a strong tester, and has had to work diligently to deal with the anxiety that wells up around it, in addition to any standard preparation. However, the other day, he said he feels a lot more confident going into this round. Still not stoked about it, or looking forward to it, but a lot less anxious and better prepared, overall. That, in itself, is a life skill I'm glad he's developing.

For his brother, standardized testing was an easy means to open opportunities. For John, it's a bar he has to clear to get where he wants to go. He's probably getting more from the process, in terms of personal growth and clear vision forward, because of it. I think the biggest benefit I've seen as we work our way through this is how the kids have encouraged each other, each meeting their siblings where they are. So he's got a goal to hit that will allow him to do what he wants to do, making this more than a routine exercise in hoop jumping. It's personal, and it matters to him. The rest of us are just here for brainstorming and general cheering.

I don't know if you have students taking standardized tests, but thought I'd share a few things we've found helpful:

Reading speed - I kept hearing - from the kids, from their friends - that they run out of time. It's not a matter of being strong readers or not. It's just being able to maintain the pace. We've kept reading, but upped our speed, increased our narrations, and added read alouds to the mix - them reading to me, to their siblings, to anyone who will hold still and listen. Measured in words-per-minute-comprehended, the reading aloud has had the best return on investment. Couple that with discussion, and it seems to be a strong booster to reading speed.

Math - Mine just don't test well with math. One of them is even a mathy-math kind of guy, but he'll groan a little and slink off with his coffee cup if you start talking standardized math tests. Something John has said he's experienced is that a firm familiarity with the concepts helps a lot - so even if you're not a math guy, and you don't love math or plan to pursue it deeply, being familiar with the vocabulary and the themes goes a long way toward quieting the roar in your head when you pop that section open. Go over the concepts you haven't gotten to in your math studies yet, and they're less overwhelming when you hit them on the exam.

ACT online learning - this is $35, you pay when you register for the test, then you can access it any time. They have two learning paths - one goes straight through the material from beginning to end, the other starts with a practice test and then adjusts your study using a combination of your own strengths/weaknesses and the highest return on time invested to help you get the most bang for your buck. You can switch between the two at any time.

There is no predetermined schedule for this study tool. To set up our schedule for this, we took the total number of questions, divided by 7 less than the total days left until test day (this gave us a buffer for getting sick, having to dig new gas lines, random attacks of Can't Even...) and that's your minimum number of questions to hit each day. It's not a good substitute for sitting down with a book, paper, and actual pencils for a practice test, but it's an excellent way to at least touch on every topic you'll be seeing on test day. When test prep is peripheral, rather than the bulk of your academic time, this is a fantastic tool.

What about you? If you've done test prep, what tips would you recommend?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, April 3

WooHoo!

It's April! The dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom! All the cars are the same shade of Southern Spring Pollen Green! We got a photographer (and he is fantastic)! We found the perfect space for shooting (*swoon*). Then we walked a bazillion miles (aaannnd that's when I realized I should have changed out of my church clothes before going to the shoot - lesson learned. Again. Whatever.) He wore his Steven Universe shirt for some of the photos. I about died laughing when he brought it out, but he said that's what he wants. Cool. But this photographer's going to have to work pretty hard to make that graphic tee and soft, oversized hoodie look legit.

I've known this was coming. (I have the paperwork to prove it.) However, something about the completely innocuous process of getting Senior photos done kicked me in the head. I had my Velveteen Rabbit moment. It's really real. And yes, I got verklempt, although thankfully it happened at Walgreens while I was buying sugar free Peeps (not the same) and hairspray (didn't expect the wind that day). So the cashier at Walgreens likely had a good end of workday story, and I didn't blubber in the street, in front of everyone, or anything.

Graduation packet is turned in. Cap and gown colors picked (graduates get to pick their own - I love that). College is chosen and settled on (again), and he's starting to get excited. He's just wrapping up the last few outside classes. I... hope he's doing well in them... I don't know. That's kind of weird, really.

He's still looking for work, but that's been an excellent series of lessons. Trial and error stinks in the moment, but it develops keen insights and one heck of an elevator pitch. So that's all good. Hopefully it will soon be He Got A Job good.

The rest of us are all ACT prep, ballet, writing classes, and laundry. It's a wild rumpus of entertainment around here. The house projects have taken a markedly antagonistic turn. I'm not sure how much headway we're going to make on those before the party. Or after. (I'm trying not to think about it.) But we do have propane - hot showers, hot meals, clean floors. That's good stuff. That's enough, really. I'm thankful for the bodies in the house, but I'm also thankful they're clean.

So, three days into April and I'm thinking about reconfiguring my days for the longer daylight hours, the busier schedule, and the need to leave time to think and to write. Hopefully, April will be a more active blogging month. Where do you put your time to do the things that refresh and rejuvenate you?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Wednesday, March 29

The Search for Senior Photos

Most of my friends already had their kids' Senior Photos done by, um, the start of April.

*sigh*

Of course, most of my friends also took their own Senior Photos. I have very talented friends. And I'm pretty sure they keep me around just to see what ridiculous thing we'll set fire to in the front yard next. And maybe for allergy-friendly snacks. It's definitely not for my photography skills, though. Also, although I can take a decent photo of some of my children, I cannot take a good one of James. Nor he of me. It's like some kind of bizarre grudge match, where we're determined to under-do each other.

So we've hired a photographer. It seemed the wise course of action.

Then the photographer asked us to send a list of outfits...

OK. So. For someone who models, this kid really doesn't care what he's wearing. As long as it's soft and not binding, he is happy. (If you're picturing sweats, an over-sized graphic t-shirt, and a hoodie, you must know my child, or have one like him.) He understands the value of wearing the appropriate apparel to certain venues, and honestly, I am happy with that. He is happy with that. Overall, we're happy. But he has no idea what he's going to wear. Or what he wants from the shoot, other than pictures.

We called on the power of the internet to get some ideas and inspiration. Here's what we discovered:

1. He does not have a football, or a football uniform, or a letterman's jacket. (Or, insert appropriate sport here.)
2. He does not have a favorite automobile (I suggested we use the Volvo and go for a vintage vibe - he snorted at me).
3. Photos for girls in this context do not convert well to photo ideas for boys.
4. Nature. Um, not so much. We're all surprised he stayed in Scouts with all that outdoorsing going on.
5. Random chair. In a road, or a hiking trail. (We just don't understand this one. How does that capture the student? Unless the student actually sits in chairs in meadows, but while we do think some do, we suspect that there aren't nearly as many as Pinterest would have you believe.)
6. Train tracks. (This would explain the recent deaths attributed to selfies. Don't try this at home, kids. Always have a professional photographer make you stand on the tracks for photographs.)
7. Ticks. So much lying in grass. ARGH.
8. Writing on feet. I don't want an 8x10 of the soles of his feet on my wall. I'm sorry, I just don't.

Overall, it wasn't an inspiring experience.

We tried brainstorming some other suggestions. He does like the city, so we thought something in the downtown area, with tall buildings in the background might work. I suggested a coffee shop (that might have been just so I can sit in a comfortable chair that's inside a building and have coffee, but I still maintain that it would work for the photos, too). Or maybe we can go to a park in town (one that gets sprayed regularly and isn't likely to have ticks) and use the laptop and a cup of coffee with the downtown buildings in the background.

He wants to bring the cat. I tried to warn him that those end up on Awkward Family Photographs every time. He remains skeptical.

I'm thinking I'll need to pay the photographer a lot more than he's asking.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, March 16

The New Mop and The Thick of It

There are days that I feel like I've gained no discernible skills in the last twenty years. I really don't. Sure, I've managed not to misplace any of the children for more than a few minutes at a time. And it's true that as far as educating the children goes, they're able to function on a level that's in line with their cognitive and physical abilities. However, laundry routines stymie me. My floors have never been so gross, nor have I ever had to work so hard to keep them from getting gross. (What IS that? I don't have toddlers anymore! This should not be a thing.) Schedules and juggling and remembering to call the dentist to tell him we're switching to another dentist... (which I just remembered, and yet, I am not going to do it right now, because I'm writing)...

Last year, while visiting with a friend, admiring all the lovely decor she has in her home, and how she was so calm and centered, she snorfled at me, cocked her head and said, "Oh, you're in the thick of it right now. It gets easier. I'm a much better housekeeper than I thought I was, and you are, too. You just can't tell yet."

There are days I cling to this like I cling to the promises of Jesus. I am thankful every day for her friendship and words of wisdom. (And I say this in no way to disparage my faith, but to say that sometimes it's the practical shoulder punch and attaboy that keep me from losing my s%@# by cocktail hour. That's just how it is.)

So this morning, as I sit feeling glad I remembered to top off my coffee before I mopped the floor (and also very glad I'm not having to do a round of American Ninja Mom to get to the pot without touching the wet floor... again), I'm feeling OK. (By the way, I like my new mop. I got this one. It isn't a great mop, and it doesn't do a particularly splendid job of cleaning the floor, but it's easy to use - and thus, gets used more often, which hopefully offsets the overall lack of industrial strength aspect - because negligence makes for a nasty floor, no matter what mop you have). I feel like maybe I don't just suck at this whole gig. Maybe. Jury's still mostly out, but it's looking good.

I guess it's time to consider graduation announcements. And invitations. And plan a cookout. And clean the property. Maybe finish the basement. Do some landscaping. Honestly, all I want to do is hang out with him, reading books, telling stories, and laughing over social media posts. Maybe make some sushi together. I don't want to spend the last few months doing Other Things.

Balance? Probably. But then we're back to that lack of discernible skill development. Thankfully, I'm not in it alone. We'll figure it out. We'll likely get a few things wrong. The house definitely won't look any better in the meantime. Maybe I can get someone to mop?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Tuesday, March 14

From 0 to 60 in 3 years!

Thankfully, we are not sports cars.

Jacob just realized that if he really wants to apply to the US Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy, he probably better get on it with Scouting and earn his Eagle. The thing is, between ballet, school, and that random year of cancer, we have no idea where he is right now with Scouts.

I emailed his Advancement Coordinator and asked her for a copy of his Individual History Report (which she emailed to me, instead of telling me I had to come to a meeting, because she is awesome and kind and goes out of her way to help people who can't get to meetings until after May). He and I compared that with his Scout Book (which, honestly, it seems nobody even bothers to read, let alone use - and I don't know why! It's a wonderfully done book, with helpful information, useful logs, and handy charts. The Boy Scout Handbook is a list-maker's dream!)

As of right now, he's been in Scouts for three years. He's been an active Scout in an active Troop. He is... Second Class. I can't help but wonder... how hard one has to work to do that. We're going to chalk it up to being spread a little thin. Or something. The thing is, he's got a ton of stuff done, just not signed off. So that's good. And he's got a lot of stuff Very Nearly Done. Also good, although a bit frustrating.

I told a friend that I'm really glad he's not my first Scout, or I'd worry that there was something wrong. There's not, though. This is just pretty much how boys figure it out - by not figuring it out at first and letting it get really good and challenging. Then one day, *poof*. They up and figure it out. (I cannot tell you how much I wish I could go back ten years and tell my old self this.)

Then, as if to highlight just how OK things are, when I asked James to keep an eye toward actively encouraging Jacob, he laughed and said, "Just as soon as I'm done encouraging John, I'll get right on it." I had to laugh. He's had so much on his plate lately that I guess he's finally learned not to put more on until he's cleared a little room. But then he sighed a contented sigh and said that he feels for John, right now, because he knows exactly how it feels to have Senior year looming, college visits, ACT prep, and Eagle project all just hovering right there in your face. He was quiet a moment before he said, "But it's good."

If my time on earth were due to end soon, that would have been the perfect time to go. "But it's good." Ah, yes, it is.

And that, my friends, will likely be what gives me the encouragement I need to keep going, to give it my all, to know that it's good. It matters.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, March 13

So it could be demonic possession...

... Or it could be the alternator. I'm surprised how similar the symptoms are for the two problems when you're talking about a vehicle. Especially a really old vehicle that already has a lot of, shall we say, personality.

For the second night this week, John's been stranded when he got off work and the Volvo wouldn't start. Both times, a jump start did the trick. After the first one, they ran by an auto parts place and asked them to check the battery and the alternator. Both checked out fine.

Then James took it out one night. It started right up, ran fine. He let it sit for hours while he was at an event, and drove it home. No problems.

Last night, it wouldn't start for John. He's frustrated that it's only doing it to him, of course. He got another jump, but when he got home he started telling us about the weird behavior of the Volvo on the drive home. Headlights dimmed and brightened, dash lights also behaved oddly... add in the radio cutting in and out (probably a loose wire), and what we suspect may be slightly fouled fuel injectors affecting acceleration, and the whole ride sounds like a scene from Supernatural.

It would be hard not to take that a little personally when the thing drives fine for everyone else and you're pretty sure you're not crazy. After a good night's sleep, I'm able to chuckle a bit. (It's likely an intermittent failure on the alternator, which won't show up unless you've got an hour to spare and can ask the parts place to do the long test. He's not crazy. And the car's not likely possessed.)

So today the boys will get to learn how to switch out the alternator. That's good stuff to know. I'm excited for them to do it again (three cars, all old - this isn't their first walk through). They don't particularly appreciate it at the moment, but one day, they will. You may get to the end of your life and think, "Whew, some of that was challenging," but you don't get to the end of your life and think, "I wish I hadn't been so capable!"

😉

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, March 11

Didn't see that coming.

James had picked his school. It was The One,  a perfect fit, a fantastic student body. It had the tone, the feel, the sense of purpose that he wanted in a school. "Here, I will thrive." He's been dealing mostly with how to earn the difference between scholarships and cost, with a motivated spirit and a can-do attitude. He even missed a deadline for scholarship applications for one of his back up schools because he'd been accepted to this one, offered scholarship money, and he was mentally committed to it. (I was a little tense about it, but I'm like that, regardless.)

Then today, I got a text from a friend. "Did you get the email from them?" Uh... no... what email?

She couldn't tell me, just sent me the link to the official news page for the college. The One announced today that they are shutting down all degree programs except Education (which James is not in), closing their on-campus housing, and circling the wagons... effective this August.

Well, then.

James is a little stunned. God love him, he took a deep breath, put in more job applications, reached out to network for work options, and is now redoubling his efforts to develop A New Plan. We're a little panicky, but we're not mad. We get it. It's hard to run a school, and if endowments and other donations shrink or disappear, you've got to work within the budget you have. We've visited with these people: they aren't making decisions lightly, or without prayerful consideration of all the outcomes. It can't have been an easy decision to make.

I am supremely thankful they said something before April 1st (not just for the April Fool's awkwardness of it, but because so many additional options go away after that date). As a First-time Freshman, he can change his trajectory pretty quickly. But my heart aches for the students who are already there, mid-way through a program, trying to figure out what to do in the fall. All the application deadlines are months gone. All the funding time is running out. I guess a surprise enforced gap year mid-program could make for an interesting story in a few years, but right now, they've got to be scrambling hard and trying to breathe. I hope the school is using its resources to help them transition.

*whew* I wish I had some wisdom or insight to offer everyone who is affected so strongly by this. And I'm going to stop wishing for things to be set in concrete - because if they are, then you can't move when you need to. Good reminder.

Beyond that, though, I'm just a little stunned by the suddenness of the change. By tonight, I've also mustered a little excitement about the possibilities that we haven't delved into, yet.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, March 9

We got it.

Well, I got it. We drove and talked. We listened to Tolstoy's How Much Land Does A Man Need. (Good story. I see what Martin means when he explains why he thinks Tolstoy is better than Dostoyevsky. I get it. I'm just not... sold, and just can't... love him. But it's all good, now.) We talked.

We stopped at a neat little place in Cookeville to meet up with friends and enjoy lunch and company. Our waitress was a delightful woman working her way through her PhD in Reading and Literacy. We squealed (we being my friend and I - John doesn't squeal over PhD plans just yet). But it was so very lovely.

And then... you know how you spend all of your parenting effort in trying to make sure you give your child exactly what he needs, or exactly what you would have wanted when you were a child (because let's face it, that's all we actually know for certain)? And you work really, really hard at being The Best Parent and nailing all the things all the time?

Yeah. And you know how that doesn't really work? And sometimes, to draw an illustration, you're pedaling along, thinking you're knocking out 22mph on your parenting bike, with the wind in your hair and the trees whizzing by on your glorious trek, only to find out you're on a stationary bike and not even actually outside, let alone making any legit progress.

I had one of those moments. Turns out, this one would rather have someone understand how not-fun a situation is than have someone brainstorm ways to make it better. That space gives him time to breathe and think it through on his own. That is totally foreign to me, because if something's bothering me and I say, "This is bothering me," I want some action on it, please and thank you. But the whole point of being supportive is that you want to do it in a way that has the outcome of supporting the person, not just the way that seems supportive to you.

So.

But I'm hopeful, because we talked. Or rather, because he talked. I listened. And then he asked me not to think up solutions - just be still and give him my empathy - that that's what he really needed. And I, being wired for fixing things that aren't working, choked back explaining that I am so very empathetic! SO empathetic that I really do feel his anguish and frustration and I WANT TO FIX IT RIGHT NOW AND I CAN THINK OF AT LEAST FOUR REALLY HELPFUL IDEAS RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE... but I'm not saying that because we could both die of irony, right here in the car. (I did tell him a little later how hard it was not to do that, and we laughed.)

I guess I'm hopeful because of the laughter more than the talking. But also because if he hadn't said, "Yeah, that's not working for me," I wouldn't have known. But now I do, and that's encouraging. (It's also hard, and it's not going to be a cake walk trying to make changes, but they are worth making. He is worth making them for.)

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, March 8

Kentucky is Beautiful and Life is Weird

So, John and I are in Kentucky to visit the University of Kentucky. Since it's a full day's drive and the tour starts before we usually even get around to making breakfast, we decided to come up the day before and spend the night. The little bohemian in my head started chanting, "Road trip! Road trip!" It is so beautiful here. Wow! Go, Kentucky!

He, however, was not so keen. Turns out, he doesn't have a little bohemian in his head. He has a homebody and someone who bakes... a comedian, and a pretty competent first responder. And that's about it. I don't get it, but he's happy, so I don't have to get it. He is also a very good sport, and he agreed to stop at the Hidden River Cave for a tour and some rappelling yesterday. So that was cool.

We were about three hours into our drive when he told me that he's actually pretty committed to going to one college, in particular. He'd only agreed to come on this because he has made the reservation before he'd toured the other one. By the time he'd made his decision, it was too late to cancel with any decency, and he didn't want to just be a no-show.

Thus begins, and ends, our Spring College Tour of '17. *moment of silence*

Jacob's already making noise about the Naval Academy. So, probably not gonna get a lot of travel time out of that one, either.

If this keeps up, I may just drag the Littles to see every school on every continent. I've been looking forward to week-long road trips with fledgling kids ever since I learned that was A Thing. I pictured unplanned segues into neat little shops, eating at small diners, walking the streets of cities we hadn't seen before. I envisioned mad dashes to get from one place to another because this next one might just be The One. I hadn't honestly expected that it wouldn't be Our Thing. So far, it's not. Both of them hit a couple mandatory tours that I'd set up to help them get a feel for it, then promptly poked around, picked the school they wanted, and said, "Found it." Done. (None were on the Mandatory Tours list, so at least I know they weren't just picking something to shut me up. That's good.)

Yet another reminder that it's all OK - however it shakes down, whatever it looks like, it is all OK. Also, it's about them. Enjoy them. Let them lead. Follow where they want to explore. If you can get a road trip out of it, savor it. If not, enjoy hanging out at home. Whatever works, works. And that's good stuff.

We're off to breakfast at the hotel. Checked the weather, and it doesn't look like we'll need to stop for rain jackets, so we're set for the day!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Sunday, March 5

Sleep

It is 9:40 this morning. Everyone is asleep except for me, and the one who wakes up talking nonstop. So we're hanging out, chatting and doing things. It's a lovely way to start the day.

The show last night was fantastic. I did not know what to expect, but it did not disappoint. We had four incredible designers showcasing their looks, several local boutiques and stores, and a millinery show that absolutely blew the crowd away. I can see why this is a passion for so many -- when you can see that in your head, how can you not work to make it a reality?

I think that's something we can all take from the art communities - Go For It. If you've got a vision, if you've got an idea, don't let excuses get in your way. Make it a reality. The work is going to be hard, long, complex, and challenging, but in the end it will be more satisfying than words can describe. We should all tackle the ideas in our heads with such vigor.

That said, I've got to tackle the Calendar Vikings and the Budget Broadcast today, or the inside of my head is going to resemble nothing but the kitchen of a poorly run restaurant. We've got a campus visit this week, and I have no idea what else...

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Saturday, March 4

Today is the Finale

I guess Z let the Littles wash their Pusheen plush toys yesterday when he threw in a load of sheets. That was very cool of him. The little cretins (I say that lovingly), however, opened the wash and retrieved their soft toys before the load had finished drying, but didn't think to mention it to anyone. So we had damp bedding after last night's show. We reset the dryer and then settled in on the couch last night to wait for them to dry. We awoke this morning, on the couch, piled up like kittens, still dressed in party garb and feeling faintly like we hadn't had quite enough fun to be waking up in that condition. Clearly, we had not planned that out well. Thankfully, we have a comfy couch, so we're not dragging today.

This morning, though, the house looked a little like a circus. Some of the crew was up and loading up for a competition down south, balancing awkward loads and tossing things back and forth. The Littles scrambled around trying to cobble together some semblance of winter wear (we really haven't had "Winter" yet). I think I saw someone wearing mismatched gloves, and I was glad they'd found one for each hand. Someone threw in a load of wash - that's gonna hurt when it's time to go, because I'm pretty sure it was something they needed for the show today... There are people doing homework, people reading books, people running through skin care routines, people making breakfast, people packing bags. Many are the same people doing multiple things. If I were clever, I'd have Chromecast some calliope music to set the mood. Instead, I made coffee. Probably more supportive that way.

In a little bit, we will head into town for one long, long day. I can't even pretend that I know what it's going to look like other than long. And good. I'm excited. And tired. It's the final day of Fashion Week Alabama. There's still time to buy a ticket and come enjoy the spectacular show and entertainment tonight - we'll be at Lowe Mill.



Enjoy your circus today. Love on those monkeys!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy