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

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

Thursday, February 9

Thank Goodness for Cell Phones

With the older boys out and away so much, we got them cell phones to help with the logistics. Sometimes I wonder why we bothered. They seldom answer them. Neither one has set up voice mail (not that any of us checks it -- what a different world it is since the advent of caller ID!) There isn't a segment of society I know of that is more likely to leave the house with 9% battery charge and no charger cable.

And yet, what a difference it's made to have this technology readily available.

One little message lets us know they've arrived safely.

"Survived"

"not dead"

"didn't die"*

None of mine send normal messages like, "made it on time" or "we have arrived safely at our destination and will now proceed with the scheduled activities". I'm OK with that. They're communicating with me. They're giving me what is, truthfully, the only part I care about: Are You OK? It's wonderful. And they're good about that.

With one swipe of a finger, they let us know if there was a change in plans: "Going to Austin's" or "Sent the Littles ahead with John".

In the 80's? Yeah, that wasn't gonna happen. (You may have been a better kid than I was, and been better about touching base. My friends and I tended to act like once we left the house, that part of our lives was paused and the part we were in was the only one with anything actually happening. Not consciously, mind, but looking back at it, that seems to be a reasonable explanation. We weren't intentionally jerks, but we were thoughtless about anything that wasn't the here and now.) I think kids do still tend to be a little thoughtless about anything that's not the here and now, but cell phones make it easier to remember to let your mother know you're not dead in a ditch right now.

My poor mother. All our poor mothers. We may or may not have had a quarter on us. Or thought to ask a friend's mother if we could use their house phone. And when there was a change of plans? Mmm-boy. My mother is gone, but if your mother is still alive, would you please apologize to her on my behalf?

If only for that, alone, the cell phones are wonderful. Add in the ability to say, "We're out of cream," when they'll be passing the store, or "Do you need gas money?" while you're actually AT the bank, and it drops the whole difficulty factor of communication by a full magnitude.

So while these perks don't negate the very real concerns our kids have to face with learning to navigate technology, and they don't replace legit parental involvement and communication, I am feeling the very real love for what positive things they've brought into our lives.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

*actual examples of standard messages

Friday, February 3

The Best People In The World

Do you know who the best people in the world are? They're the ones who "get" your kid. The ones who believe in her and have high expectations for her, but who step in with grace and affection and love when the kid gets overwhelmed, or makes an honest mistake, or even does something boneheaded.

They're the ones who give you room to laugh and shake your head and remember that we were all once just-barely-grown and trying to figure it all out.

They allow you to shed your frustration and come back to a place of support and encouragement.

They're the ones who point out what they love about your child when your brain is freaking out and you're starting to wonder if the only real options available are homelessness or living in the basement. (Which, they're not. But the brain is a crazy organ with a warped sense of humor.)

They're the ones who willingly write up a letter of recommendation on only 12 hours notice because someone didn't read the application all the way to the end before taking a deep, panicked breath and starting on the essay.

They're the ones who share their own stories with your child -- about missed deadlines, or botched labs, or fender benders, or whatever mishap your own kid is currently beating herself about the head for. (We actually spent about half an hour at book club a couple of weeks ago sharing stories of freak car incidents we'd all experienced, to encourage a young man who'd had One Of Those Days. In the end, he was able to laugh - mostly at us, and our ridiculous stories - and realize that he hadn't doomed himself to being That Kid forever and ever.)

They laugh gently, they cluck sympathetically, they point out that it doesn't mean you're awful, it means you're human.

And humans are fantastic if you give them room to be!

The best way to find these people is to be one of these people. If you have this, feed it regularly and roll around in it - you're all doing good work, and it matters. If you don't have this, fire it up. Roll up your sleeves and go love on some kids. You'll find your people. They tend to create a symbiotic energy, encouraging and loving on each other and each other's children in turn. It's a beautiful gift you can give to yourself, your children, your friends, their children, and so on. It really is.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Thursday, February 2

I Don't Know What I'm Doing, And Neither Do They

Yesterday, I had such a wonderful visit with a friend. I think you would find it encouraging, too. So that's what I'm going to talk about.

Kids Don't Know What They're Going To Do -- and that's OK.

To be fair, in my circle of friends, the parents seem to have a good grasp on that, but the kids don't believe them. The fledglings are stressed, worried, unsure, and a little weirded out by this whole process. The parents, after a couple of decades raising children, have realized that nobody really knows what they're doing, and that's OK.

Certainly, we educate ourselves, we approach choices thoughtfully, and try (with all our might) to make sure we're making the best choice we can with the information we have. But in the end, it always feels like we're blindfolded, throwing darts. It takes us a while to realize all the others around us feel the same way. Thankfully, we're not all actually doing just that (that sounds like a terribly dangerous room to be in), but it absolutely feels that way. We come to terms with that at some point.

So I'm not really talking to you. But in a way, I am. When we understand that about ourselves, we can combine that understanding with the fact that that kids - who still have way more energy than we do, tend to experience things very deeply, have a drive to do Amazing things, and are also blessed with the ability to be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN about many things - are also still very much just younger versions of their adult selves (they just haven't realized yet that the blindfolds-and-darts feelings don't ever really go away), and we can then relate to and encourage them in meaningful ways. Mostly by modeling and living what we know to be true. Definitely by using more than words...

Other than, "Don't worry about it," which sounds supremely ridiculous after umpteen years of, "You have to take care of the things in front of you!" and "Deadlines matter!" and other such prudent direction.

...Other than, "You'll figure it out".

...Other than, "You don't have to know what you're going to do." Again, compare this to at least a dozen years of hearing people - family, friends, strangers in the grocery store - ask them what they want to be when they grow up. After a while, it's pretty easy to interpret that to mean they're expected to have not just a clue, but an entire plan. If your fledgling is in the last few years of school, he/she likely feel like it's quickly heading to a double jeopardy round -

"I'll take College Majors for a thousand and pray I don't choke, Alex."

Some kids do have a plan. They have a solid plan. It is THE PLAN. And they come apart at the seams when that plan changes, or dissolves. They need us to model that it's OK.

Some kids are afraid to make a plan, because if it changes or dissolves, then that's failure. We have to think fondly back on some of our more meaningful failures and let them see us laugh about it, now. It's OK.

Some kids use the hold-off-on-all-decisions-until-there-is-only-one-option left approach to figuring out their path forward. For this, I can only recommend a hearty snifter of brandy and a good book. That one's painful to watch. But they're going to be OK. And honestly, they're going to be OK much more quickly than they feel, or we fear, or than anyone suspects. We need to reflect that they can do it, and that it will be OK.

I think the key might be in knowing (in our hearts) that it will be OK, and then freeing ourselves up from the pressure and the uncertainty to listen to (really hear) them, to empathize, and then we can throw darts to get the timing down for when to nudge and when to break out the tea and sympathy.

If you  have fledged ones, what do they say was the most encouraging for them? What would they say helped the most as they were heading out? We'd love to hear their thoughts!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 29

We Cannot Do Everything

That sounds so trite. I know. But here it is, Sunday, and I'll tell you, I am dragging. Dragging more than the schedule would indicate makes sense. But I think maybe I've reached the limit of my contortions and we're going to have to scale something back. (As I write that, I am reminded that I have a meeting Wednesday to see if I can help with the back end of a project coming up... hmm... probably should have written this post last week. Someone get me a Time-Turner! Or a virtual assistant!)

James and I headed out of town yesterday for a photo shoot. That was a fantastic experience. Not just the shoot, but the whole road trip. I so enjoy spending time with him, and when we're on the road (and nobody's doing Zombie Rainbow Dash impressions in the second row, so it's quiet), we have time to just talk. Laugh. Ponder. He's a neat young man, and I'm glad to know him.

This afternoon, the boys went to their Godparents' with Z to split and stack wood for the house. I love that when we mentioned the need, they all said, "When do you wanna go?" This wasn't on my radar when I was pregnant with any of them, but if I'd thought about it, it's one of the traits I'd have prayed for for each one. Lord, make them generous in spirit and willing to work. ( Now, I pray, "Lord, thank you for thinking of that when I was too young and scared to think beyond, 'Please let them be OK'!")

When the rest of us got home, I turned the Littles loose to play video games for a bit and I worked on the menu, the lesson plans, social media, work, and chatting with a cousin. That was lovely. No clue how to make our weeks less draining yet, but hopefully inspiration will strike soon. If not, there are a few episodes of Doc Martin left, and I have fuzzy socks!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 25

Opportunity Costs

So this was weird...

James seems to be zeroing in on the college he wants to go to. It's entirely his choice, and I think he's putting some good thought into his choice. He's leaning toward the one that's probably the best fit for him.

And now I find myself fretting over the ones he isn't leaning toward. (But, this campus is lovely! And that Physics program is amazing! But what about... But this one has... But, but but...) Which feels very dumb, and vaguely like I'm upset about his choice, which I'm not.

So what IS that?

It's fear. It's the Very Real Application of the concept of Opportunity Cost, and while it's not a Big Hairy Fear, I still don't like it. It's uncomfortable.

I've faced it before -- I got married (if you marry this one person, that means that none of the other people out there who are very good people can be your spouse), and that didn't bother me. I bought a house (and goodness knows that's a bit more of a commitment than picking a college... *raised eyebrow*). I choose grocery items and hair color, vehicles and clothing, doctors and medical choices... regularly, and with some skill. Why the difference here?

So I asked some trusted friends if they thought perhaps I am losing my mind. They've both got children out there, studying outside the nest, doing new things. They're about 10 klicks ahead of me on this particular journey. Both responded with a resounding, "Totally normal." It turns out, this is, in fact normal. We don't know why.

Perhaps it's because we dream larger than life for our children. We want to offer them the best of everything, and we don't want to limit them. We spend the bulk of two decades trying to cobble together opportunities and weave them into an Anything is Possible array for them. After that kind of lifestyle, we spend time looking at colleges and seeing some pretty fantastic things here and there... and then ask them to limit the the next few years of their lives by picking Just One. It feels like shutting doors. Well, it is shutting doors, but that's not a bad thing. You can't move forward if you don't pick a door and go through it.

(Worse, though, if you're a child of the 80's, it starts to feel like they probably just picked the door with the worn out mule behind it.)

But they're not just guessing. (I mean, some of it may be guessing, but at least in our house, I'm hearing enough thoughtful conversation to be reassured that it's not entirely guesswork. And that's enough. I'm happy. A lot of life is at least partially guesswork, anyway, so welcome to the club, Kids!)

I think he'll thrive there. I think, too, that I'll be fine with the Opportunity Costs, and that I will eventually get a handle on not fretting over all the things he's not doing while he's busy doing something he is immersed in. (The feedback from the 10-klicks-ahead crew indicates that yes, this is trueish.)

If he gets there and has a serious Gob moment ("I've made a huge mistake"), then he can change direction and shift gears. He'll figure it out. My part is not to let the fear that creeps in now take over my mouth when he actually needs my input. So. That's my assignment for now.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 18

College Fairs and Do Overs

There's a college fair in town today. John and I are going to go check it out. We went two years ago, but he was a Freshman that year. (We went for James, and John got to hang out with his buddy, who was a Junior. I'm pretty sure the parents got the most out of that one, just by standing back and observing.) I am, however, hopeful that this year he'll get more out of it, and maybe get excited about visiting schools.

I really hope I'm doing this right. You want your children to be happy. You want them to challenge themselves. You want them to have a life filled with good work and strong connections. You want them to be all they can be (in the Army, or in civilian life - although kudos to the Army's marketing team for absolutely owning a phrase for all eternity. Well played, my friends. Well played.)

But where's the line between pushing them too hard and, say, encouraging them to punt? How do you nurture their passions without neglecting Something Really Important That You Didn't Think About? And how do you make sure you're not squashing their inner momentum with what you perceive to be Good Advice? What's the best way to encourage-but-not-badger? And do they need to be badgered sometimes? And how big of a badger do you need to use?

Sadly, these are just variations on the same questions I've been asking for 18 years. I'm no closer to the answers. (Although during one conversation, one of the kids did say, "Sometimes, I need to be nagged. I'm sorry, but it's true." So, yay for honesty?) All I have are some moderately successful ideas, some "Yeah, never do that" ideas (and, of course, the caveat there is "never do that for that particular child", because the next child may very well respond quite well to whatever broke the previous one). The learning curve is steep and... curvy.

But then, James and I were talking about do-overs the other day. He's got a few he'd like to take. I've got a few (or... more than a few...) I'd like to take. He asked some pretty direct questions about what kind of do-overs I had in mind if I could go back and try again with him. (There was definitely a kind of, "Whoa, whoa, whoa there. What kind of craziness might I have dodged?" feel to the line of questioning. It made me laugh.) Turns out, he liked his childhood. He appreciates his education. He loves his life. He encouraged me to just leave it alone if I do get the chance to go back and change things.

To be truthful, I probably wouldn't leave it alone. I would be gentler when I was tired. I would spend more time doing art and making messes. I would be far less fearful. I would be more fun. I would heed Good Advice when it was handed to me. But don't tell him that, please. He's happy, and I'm so, so glad.

Be encouraged!

~Dy