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

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

Thursday, March 2

Dumb and ...

Sometimes, while going over how best to approach something, We Who Live Here and up having conversations that go like this:

"You want to get up and get ready for the day as if you have an interview."

"But I don't have an interview."

"But you could."

"But I don't."

"But you could!"

"I think I'd know if I had an interview."

"OK, that's true. But it could be a surprise interview."

*awkward pause*

"So you're saying there's a chance?"

*Insert another awkward pause as we try to figure out which of us is Jim Carrey in this discussion.*

via GIPHY

And yeah, life is weird. No, we're not always going to have an interview. Or a surprise interview. But I can say that the few times I've slipped out of the house in my generation's equivalent of a Steven Universe shirt and a pair of sweats when I was actively looking for work, I've run into someone who was poised to advance or hinder my forward progress to my goals. (Not the goals that involve wearing that, either.) It's just the cruel irony of life.

When you add in the fact that we're a good 40 minutes from anyone who might want to interview any of Us Who Live Here, well, you're going want that extra time to make the drive when someone does call at 11 in the morning and says, "Hey, we got your resume and would love to speak with you. Can you come in this afternoon?"

Worse yet, you want to be able to say yes if you're already in town when they call to invite you in and there isn't time to go home, shower, change, and get back into town. (True story.) Or just muster the moxie to show up in your con shirt and cut off shorts and hope for the best. But honestly, that level of muster is exhausting and not sustainable.

Thankfully, the kids get that I'm not just making this stuff up. It's real. It's pertinent to them. This is not just Mom Talking To Hear Herself Make Words. Most of the time. Sometimes they need to experience their own True Story for it to come together. But that's OK. Life is really quite complex and nuanced, and we have many more odd conversations to have before they're ready to leave.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the phone calls and texts that will come in the future. Hopefully we'll be able to laugh and say, "Ah, so there was a chance!"

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Wednesday, March 1

It's Go Time!

While James has been writing essays, researching scholarships, pounding the pavement looking for work, he's also been working towards this week: It's Fashion Week in North Alabama!


Photography by Mannon Giovanni
Suit by Dionicio's Closet
Styled by Shauntana Buchannan
Hair by Hair of Essence 

The Kick-Off is tonight, with runway looks by designer LeJeune, a special presentation from Belk styled by Shauntana Buchannan (who is available to help you put your look together - just stop by the Belk in Bridge Street, Madison, and ask for her), a formal wear show, as well as pop-up boutiques, art, and more.

There will be shows each night, from tonight through Saturday's Finale.

If you would like to come, please consider purchasing your ticket through this link and help support the AFA, as well as James. (He does not receive proceeds from the sale of tickets. He only helps move Fashion Week Alabama forward.)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, February 26

Stress. It's so stressy.

The other day, James brought up an idea in an article that he'd read. I'm going to try to find it, but the gist was that one of the biggest stressors in life is Unmade Decisions. While it seems silly that opportunity is stressful, it also makes sense. There's that level of uncertainty - if you don't know what you want to do, what are you going to do? If you can't make a decision, opportunities dissolve (and they may not be ones you wanted to take in the end, but you'll never know, now), communications dwindle (we all know the discomfort of realizing you didn't communicate something, and now it's awkward, so you keep putting it off, and it keeps getting more awkward... but the need is still very much present), the pressure of deadlines and expectations and disappointments pile up. It's all very paralyzing.

You may have plenty of options in front of you: gap year, wander the earth like Cain, work, intern, university, community college for a bit with an eye to transfer, community college with an eye toward certifications, apprenticeship. But where you're going to be in a year, in two years, is going to look very different if you take the wandering route than if you take the work route. So there's that high-level, intrinsic uncertainty that erodes as any attempts to make plans or decisions when there are Unmade Decisions - especially the ones that hinge on an Unmade Decision.

Some of this seems unavoidable, and I default to rest, hydration, nutrition, and spiritual care. Then just suck it up beyond that. But I did find this article at Psychology Today, which doesn't address the stress of Unmade Decisions directly, but is very thoughtfully presented input on making sound decisions.

This discussion came up in the context of James' stress, specifically. He is so stressed. Honestly, he's doing fine. He's on track-ish. (There's always room for improvement when your parents aren't doing the paperwork and planning. It's harder in the short term, but so much better in the long run. Hence, the -ish. It's said with love, and a nod at reality.) He's got ideas and plans, and they're good, but the stress in his head is impacting his ability to think, or to plan. It hit me the other night that he really needs to make the decision as to which college he will commit to attending. I suspect that having that uncertainty no longer floating in his head will smooth out the chaos in there a bit and let him get to working on the immediate tasks with a little more confidence. (And, honestly, I pitched that half expecting it to be blown off as Crazed Mumbo Jumbo Mom Spouts, but it wasn't. He gets that that is contributing to a certain inability to make other plans, to engage and get excited about something concrete and attainable. So, whew. I'm glad he pulled something helpful from what I put out there. I'm even more appreciative that he shared the information he had on Unmade Decisions - it was like connecting two dangling thoughts into one coherent concept, for both of us.)

I need to keep reminding myself that it's best to have the mind of a beginner, even as the parent. We don't really have to have all the answers - we just have to be willing to wend our way toward finding them.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, February 25

First Visit Without Me, Still Don't Know What I'm Doing

It's John's turn to visit colleges he's picked this Spring. He's at his first visit without his brother, which I think is going to be really great for him. They get along well, but they are so different, and they operate on different frequencies. So it'll be good for John to explore at his pace and see what resonates with him.

He's also there without me, and while it's fantastic for him to have time with Z, and all that ... This is weird. So I'm up, doing paperwork, paying bills, quieting the Calendar Vikings.

And texting with a friend who is about the same distance down this path as I am. (She's got one fledging, and one running the system check to get on deck next year.) She, too, sounds like she's being held hostage in a game show where you have to figure out the rules as you play and they throw wet things at your head when you get a question wrong. I had no idea this was what we sounded like, but there's been a lot of, "You, too!" and "I'm so glad it's not just me!" flying back and forth this morning. So, yeah. There's that.

So, to those of you fledging your first this year, we raise a toast. Yes, it's before 5. Yes, it's a stout one. We salute you. You are not alone.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Friday, February 24

Understanding

Last night, when the boys returned from class, James said, "Wow. Now I understand how hard what you do really is."

I truly appreciated that. He wasn't talking about the teaching, planning, guiding, or feeding aspects, but that's OK. Because what's really killing me this semester is Thursday's driving.

Z and I have a car sharing arrangement that allows whoever is driving more miles to take the most fuel efficient vehicle. So, two days a week I get his commuter car. (We're not quite where we can sell the Suburban, but we are very, very close.) It's a great arrangement and it's run smoothly for the most part. Yesterday, however, on his way out the door, James snagged the keychain with the one and only key to Z's car. I didn't realize it when he grabbed the keys, because we keep all the keys on the same shelf. We have copies of most keys, and he just didn't think about it being an issue.

But when the rest of us got ready to head out to run errands, hit the book store, get shoes, and head to class (all things I'd planned because Jacob had opted to skip ballroom to buy us an extra two hours), I couldn't find the key (obviously, with it not being home). Eventually, I called James to ask where he'd set it when he'd gotten in the previous night. (This is the one time I hated that he's so good about putting his phone on vibrate while he's in class. I had to keep calling and just hope it was in his pants pocket.)

"Well, I have one here, in my pocket."

"That's the only one. I need it!"

So, bless him, James drove up from Ballroom to bring me the key. And I tasked him with getting Jacob to ballet so I could take the Littles straight to sign language because the delay had made it likely that no one would get to the right place in time if I had to do both (there is no time to detour to the house, really, and we hit rush hour traffic). He did (because he's awesome). And then he had to drive back down for class, and to pick up his brother who'd waited for him at a coffee shop, then drive home. When he got home, he'd logged 192 miles. Or, as we like to call it, A Full Thursday.

He was beat. I sympathized and suggested a hot cup of tea and an early lights out. He probably slept like the dead.

And as much as I hated for him to have to run the gauntlet of a Thursday, I'm actually glad he did it. It's good for him to understand that sometimes the schedule is a high wire act and we all have to do our parts in order for us not to keep falling off the wire and having to scramble across the net, back up the ladder, and out onto the wire again. But it was also very good for him to have first-hand experience of the way you scramble across the net, back up the ladder, and out onto the wire again. Ta-da! It can be done. And it's OK.

I mean, I wouldn't ever shove a kid off a bike just so they could learn to get back on, but it is good to fall off and see that it's not the end of the world. I guess we'll just call those the happy accidents in life. (One more, and then I'll stop. Promise.) Things come apart at the seams and you learn how to use double-sided tape or a stapler to keep it together until you can get home and redo the seams, right?

As a parent, it was a huge win, if only because I didn't yell (well, outside my head). It was an accident. It wasn't malicious or indicative of any massive character failing. It was just a goof up, and although it made SO many things hard for the rest of the day, it didn't do an actual harm. Plus, the Littles got to class on time, and that was fantastic for them.

Happy accidents, none on the actual highway. I'm a happy camper. And today, we get a spare key made for Z's commuter car...

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, February 17

TGIT... erm, F...

Wow, got up this morning and thought, "How is it Thursday already?"

But it's Friday.

So that gives you a good indication of how I'm doing, here. Happy, but totally not caught up.

We're in a lull at the moment, which, really, we needed. There was a harrowing, break-neck race a couple of nights ago to submit an application before the midnight (please let it have been "midnight Mountain time") deadline. One of the children got a fantastic crash course in the value of submitting applications before the actual deadline -- when successful submission opened up a variety of additional scholarships for which he qualified. Each one required an essay. He had 40 minutes to do it, and our internet crapped out at the 30 minute mark.

I can't tell you how fantastic it is to have a child get a clue that you didn't lob at him from across the room.

I also can't tell you how thankful I am that I'm not a heavy drinker, because it seems like a totally legit go-to at some points.

But I didn't yell. I climbed in bed with a book and told him to text me when he got the issue fixed. He did. The moment has passed, it's done, and now we're moving forward.

Jacob tried to find another class he could move into, to free up some of the time crunch on our Thursdays, but that was a bust. We both plan to use some insane Introvert Time Protection Schemes when he's registering for this fall -- not because either of us is introverted, but because introverts know how to guard their time, and we clearly have no clue at all. We can't be trusted with the calendar.

I want to sit in this lull and enjoy it, but I also want to hurry up and get to the next adventure. Life is weird. But so good. It's all good, and I appreciate it!

What are you looking forward to? And what are you enjoying now?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy