Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friends. Show all posts

Monday, August 14

Be That Friend

Have I mentioned lately just what a blessing a good friend is?

Well, it is. So much so.

In this case, she is. And I am both humbled and appreciative in quantities I cannot express.

You see, I've been absolutely pummeled by Things lately. Not big things. Not bad things. Just things. What's the old saying, nibbled to death by ducks? It's migratory season and I am camped out at the watering hole, people. There are ducks everywhere.

And there are days that I suspect I'm the only one who can see them, which puts me pretty firmly in the Hunter S. Thompson category for a) crazy, and b) really unable to handle the situation.

So when I got paralyzed last week and decided that refinishing furniture was probably my number one priority, that was a big red flag for me. WHOA, Nellie! Why are we painting a nighstand in the basement? (Because it's something I can do. That helps. And has an end point. Unlike every flipping thing else going on in my life. Hand me the sandpaper and stop asking questions.)

And a dear friend asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

And my inner idiot said, in a very tiny voice, "No, I'm fine."

And a dear friend said, "Can I come over on a specific date to help with specific things?" (Which, really, is the better question to ask, because when people are stripping hardware in the basement instead of washing walls, they don't really know what kind of help they need. Or what they need, at all. True story.)

And I started to say, in what I intended to be a Big, Strong Brave Voice, "Nah, I've got it." But then I heard the punchline to my favorite joke...

I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more help did you want?

And since the Holy Spirit seemed to realize that I need pedestrian humor to get me moving, I laughed. And then I said, in a Very Relieved Voice, "Yes, that would be lovely."

Then, she came. And I stood here, in my mess and clutter, with one sock on cockeyed, feeling very, very vulnerable while she did not freak out, grab the children and yell over her shoulder as she ran for the truck, "Who lives like this?!?!" (For which I am forever grateful.)

She made a check list. She pointed us in the right direction. Then (OH! THE GRATITUDE!) she worked with Em to box up all. her. art. All of it. Into bins. And Em didn't cry. She didn't feel stripped of her world. This friend did something that I could not have done with all the Moscow Mules in the world at my disposal: she made packing up fun for Em!

And she cracked the paralysis that had overcome me. I don't know which of the aspects I appreciate the most, but I'm going to do my part by saying, y'all, Be. That. Friend. Be willing to step up alongside your friends when they are stuck. Even if you don't know what they need, just go be present. Lob ideas. Laugh. Visit. Work if there's work to be done. Bring joy. Be encouraging. You have no idea what good it can do a soul! But they will, and it will matter.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, July 29

Listing A House

With Z looking for work that will take us closer to his mom, and the boys' activities (work, school, dance) keeping them in town from dawn to dusk, we've decided to sell the Forever Home and move into a rental.

Now to declutter enough that I can stage it and make a comprehensive list of Things To Be Done. Yikes!

Today, we worked in the basement and the foyer. I can't even pretend to have any idea how much headway we made, or what we need to do next. I just need to get some stuff out of the way so I can breathe. We did quite a lot, though, and this evening everyone is sleeping well.

Tonight we attended a going away party for friends. That's always a bittersweet occasion. We're happy for them to have new adventures and explorations, but there will be an empty place for those of us left behind. It was good to hug them one more time tonight, to see the kids all grown (growing?) up... And thank God for technology. We can video chat, keep up to date through social media, and email. So it's almost like we get to go along with them. That makes the distance easier.

Tonight, though, I'm beat, physically and mentally. It's time to kick off my boots and watch something stupid.

Be encouraged!

Dy

Monday, June 26

*POOF* Busy weekend!

I thought for sure I'd posted over the weekend, but no. Know what else I didn't do? Sleep. Clearly, I should have thought things through a bit better.

Although, to be honest, I don't know where to cut anything, or how to make it happen in a sane way. It feels like we're holding everything together with surface tension at the moment, and I'm afraid if we poke it, the mess is going to be enormous.

Friday, we ran errands, we cleaned the house, we had a little Come to Jesus about the condition of the house, and we worked on the Volvo some. Normal stuff. The Volvo wasn't yet up and running that evening, so Z stayed up to retrieve one of the boys from his shift at Hamacon.

Saturday was full of trek prep, home repairs, more errands, more Hamacon retrieval, Volvo work, and a show at the VBC (Jacob walked, so that was 4:00-9:30PM, there).

Sunday, we had worship, which was fantastic. And pot luck, which is always restful. I am thankful we can do that. Then I had to be at a casting (nothing glamorous, just helping with sign-in -- although I did get to dance and snuggle with a precious baby for most of it, freeing up her parents to be more productive than I could be - that was a win), and Z took the kids to a birthday celebration for a lovely young woman we know. I headed over after my shift at the casting and passed the keys to John. He left for work. James arrived at some point and...

We all sat. We sat and visited and just did. not. move. It was glorious. We stayed WAY too late, and I feel a little guilty about that; however, it really was glorious to just be among kind people, chatting about hopeful things, listening to kids laugh and talk. Balm for the soul, right there. Also, how can I cut *that* out in exchange for sleep? That was just as rejuvenating as anything else we could have done.

Again, thankful.

There is so much I am thankful for, amidst the exhaustion.

This morning, I tried the Fat Coffee I'd purchased for the trek. (Realized, after a discussion with someone else about how coconut oil just, erm, tears through them, that I ought to try some NOW for the first time, rather than on the trail.) It tastes like 1970's-era instant decaf. So, not exactly something I'll look forward to on the trail, but I'm working up some kind of nostalgic affection for it. We'll see how that goes.

This afternoon I head in for six-month labs at the cancer center. Praying for a clear report. Actually, if you want to be very specific about it, I'm praying for labs that are good enough that we can punt the next scan another six months further down the road. So, if you're up for it, that'd be magnificent! There's more to the day, but that's all I'm focused on at the moment.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, June 7

The Gauntlet Is Run!


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

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


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

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



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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

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

Sunday, April 30

Busy Days and Lazy Days, The Homeschooler's Schedule

A friend commented recently, "I love Almost-May! Everything is next year!" The rest of us laughed and nodded. In the homeschool calendar, that's pretty much it. August is, "Oh. We should probably start soon." September and October are mostly just happy sounds backed by cool weather and fresh books. November is, "Mmm, let's regroup and see what we can finish by December." January is just long, followed by February, which is "Wow, we should have looked more seriously into boarding school." March is another hopeful regrouping, "No, we can do this. Surely by August we'll have ironed out whatever-this-is-that's-tripping-us-up-right-now." (We won't - it's February that tripped us up. It happens every year.) That's followed by April, when everyone takes a deep breath, shoulders down, charge ahead, "We can do this! We're almost done!" Then comes May...

Next year, we're going to use the learning journals more regularly.

Next year, we're going to rock this time management plan I just found in the back of the bookshelf.

Next year, I'm hiring out as much as possible.

Next year, I'm going to do it all in-house, back to basics.

Next year, we're just going to subsist on water and museum memberships. It'll be FUN!

Even when we know better, there's a cathartic, comforting aspect to Next Year. It gets us through to June, which is the pay-off, the re-calibration, the re-centering:

"Huh. This was actually a pretty fantastic year. Look at you go! You learned a lot... I should probably give us all a little more credit next February."

It's good to know the rhythms of your year, lean in, embrace them. Come May, you can indulge in all the changes you're going to make Next Year!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

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

Saturday, January 14

On Encouragement

Encouragement is something we all need. It's something we crave. We don't all necessarily want it in the same way... For example, I have one child who loves some high fives and goofy accolades from friends, acquaintances, strangers on the sidewalk - he's pretty much willing to be encouraged by anything... and another who is much more encouraged by a quiet positive comment that can't be heard beyond the two of you, or by receiving a note or a card, than by anything loud or likely to draw attention her way. Both are receptive to encouragement, but they are not encouraged by the same thing.

I wonder if we sense that aspect of it, but don't quite know how respond to it. I know I struggle with "knowing" how to be encouraging. I hear friends express a desire to be encouraging. It's often accompanied by a semi-apologetic self-deprecating half-laugh. 

It always catches me off guard coming from them, because I hear it from some of the most encouraging, uplifting, strengthening women I know. These are the women who I trust with my most precious things: my children's struggles, my own fears, my worries. I trust them with my hopes, my crazy ideas, my broken nature. They are the ones I know will actually pray when they say they will. They mean it when they say they'll help with anything. They extend good faith and assume the best when there are disagreements.

(And if you're thinking right now, "Wow, Dy, you are one lucky gal!" Well yes. Yes, I am. I don't know how it happened, and I absolutely don't deserve it, but I'm not about to point it out to anyone who could fix it differently.)

I don't claim to know the answer, but I would venture to suggest that being encouraging isn't a thing in itself. I'm starting to believe that just by being in relationship with others -- real relationship, where you share your lives together, and you know each other -- your presence and interaction are, by their very nature, encouraging. 

When you know whether someone feels better by laughing or sitting quietly, and you care about them, you learn to bring that to the table (or, if you're me, at least try to be calm and quiet if that's what they need) when you come to them. But really, the fact that you're *there* is the root of the encouragement. You're traveling along with them, not expecting them to go it alone. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to be perfect. Just be there. Be willing. That is so encouraging.

Be encouraged (and encouraging!)

~ Dy

Sunday, January 1

The Good Things

2016 seemed like a grueling year in so many ways. But it wasn't all bad. In an attempt to archive some of the good (and some of it was Very Good, Indeed), I wanted to pick a highlight from each month to share. Like the habit of finding 3 Good Things to list when life gets difficult, but on steroids.

January - Z was gone a lot this year, and Dad Boxes, sent from on the road, were a highlight for everyone.


February - we finally got around to designing and building a coffee table to go with the sofa! I love it!!


Also, Buddy finally got over his fear of the car. (He now hops in, goes all the way to the third row, and refuses to acknowledge that you're even speaking to him until you've taken him for a spin around the courthouse!)

 March -- John and James were both called out for the Order of the Arrow.


 In April, we biked the Silver Comet, starting at the AL/GA boarder.


 Oh, and took pottery. This was a pretty fantastic month.


John, his best bud, and I volunteered at a Spartan Race. (The plan was to use our credit to race in May, but that fell through. Still, this was a pretty fantastic experience.)


May - prom! Steampunk. Because that's awesome.


And we bought kayaks for the Littles. OH, why did we wait so long? This was huge fun!


And Chemistry. Every week, with two other families. The house is still standing. There were a few explosions. Semi-controlled, and outside. So that was nice. This was hard, and good, and I'm SO glad we did this.


Jacob got to go to Space Camp. He's hooked, he's got his eye on Mars, and is saving to go back for the next level in 2017.


June - James was selected as a model for the Alabama Fashion Alliance. This changed the trajectory of the entire rest of the year. So much to learn, but such an interesting industry. And he loves it.


And back to Colorado! It was hard - very hard - to come back that last time. And did I tell you we hiked the Manitou Incline? I only got 3/4 of the way up before the Littles mutinied, but James and John made it to the top. Also, we got lapped by an octogenarian who clearly runs it daily just because he can, but even that was encouraging.


July -- We tried Durian for the first time. Because how can you not?


And then Jacob's best bud came home and spent a week scrabbling about the rocks with us.


August -- *phew* This one was hard. (That's not me in the pictures - as far as I know, there are no photos of me doing this. But I did it!) For someone who has no depth perception, is uncoordinated and afraid of heights, this was a gigantic feat. Scouting is cool.


September -- James had his first runway show.


And his second...

October -- we were still out in the kayaks every chance we got this Summer. Er, and fall.


And James received the rank of Eagle Scout!


November -- there's been a lot of fiber art action going on, here. I love these little miniature felted critters that Em made.


A visit from friends from out West!


And a birthday outing! (Actually, a lot of the kids turned 18 this year. This has been bittersweet, but the excitement and anticipation win out because they are just. such. great. young men and women.)


December -- we made it. Full lap. Holy cow.


Here's to 2017 bringing us a time of learning, discernment, joy, growth, support (both given and received)...

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Thursday, December 15

Big News. Ish.

Well, not Big-big News. I'd hopefully come up with a much better title for that. But little-news-that's-exciting-to-me-because-I-hate-using-the-computer-for-reading. ACNA (the Anglican Church in North America) has been working on a Texts for Common Prayer, and it looks like it'll be available in print January 1st. (It's been available in PDF for a while.) We're relatively new to the Anglican Church (it's been about a year and a half), and I do love me some hands-on reading. So I'm quite excited about this.

In other news, it's Alabama-cold. The kids set small cups of water on the porch last night, and were not only disappointed, but quite surprised that the water didn't freeze. They were relatively certain that the ice should have been rock solid and rather impressive. I don't know if we need to move to Minnesota, or just double down on how temperatures work. (Although to be fair, with a low of 24, I thought they'd at least get a little something around the rim. Our pipes freeze up when it hits 27... So maybe I need to study up, too.) Either way, we're loving the warm goodness of wool this week.

Not a lot, really, going on today. Had lunch with a wonderful friend -- we got to talk a bit about what it's like to have a student done with homeschooling... and then (as I'm about to graduate my first, she's about to graduate her last) what it's like to *be* done with homeschooling. Nobody ever blogs about that. Probably because it's just as terrifying as getting started, but with less heads up. You're plugging along, doing your thing, and the next thing you know, there's nobody coming up the ranks... just, done. Weird. Exciting, liberating, wide-open, and not a little unsettling. But I'm excited to see what she's going to do, and I'll be jotting down ideas for when I look up and realize I'm done.

If you're in the thick of it, know this - you're doing good work. Be diligent. Be kind. Be encouraged.

~Dy


Wednesday, December 14

A Day's Outing

We had three field trips today, starting at 8:30 this morning. That... wasn't the best planning I've done, but it worked out well in the end.

Krispy Kreme tour -- the highlight of this one was getting to mill about and visit with people we adore and see only rarely. Plus, coffee. Because if we have to be anywhere at 8:30, there should be coffee.

Knitting -- a dear friend meets with a knitting group, and she's invited Em to join them. But new people. And learning new skills. And so, polite-but-firm refusal has been Em's MO.

But *today*, we were having our book club at the same place, at overlapping times! So I had to jump on that opportunity, because it might not happen again, and I knew she'd love it once she got there.

And she did. (*whew*) When the knitters left for the day, she joined the rest of the kids for some board games and hang time...


Then we came home and slapped a little learning into the day with history, math, literature and languages.

James is really showing his mettle with this Physics course. I don't think I could do a full year's AP Physics in five months. Eh, strike that, there's No Way I could do it. But he's doing it. It hasn't been easy, and a few of the hurdles he's cleared haven't been gorgeous and sleek (they've been more like when I try to clear actual, physical hurdles), but he has kept on it. Not giving up, that one. And he gets it. He makes sure of that by putting in extra time when he doesn't get it, even if he's got the homework done and turned in -- he keeps at it until he's wrangled it to the ground. The mother in me gets exasperated with his organizational struggles, but the human in me is inspired by his intelligence and tenacity.

Not insinuating that mothers aren't humans. But we have strange lenses. Sometimes we've got to step back and view what our children are accomplishing through the eyes of just being human, doing hard things, and sticking to it. And then we are amazed. And oh, so proud.

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Tuesday, December 6

It's a Party! With Party Food!

This fall, I've been part of the most amazing book club. It's been a source of humor, support, prayer, encouragement, ideas and insights, thoughtful conversation... You name it. We've also managed to read a couple of books. But that turned out to be the excuse, not the purpose. Tomorrow, we party.

The gift exchange plan is that the adults have drawn names and are to give gifts that we already have lying around, or can make. Wish I'd thought about the potential for this at some point in the last year of purging and wardrobe capsules and decluttering. I'm down to offering up a spare cast iron skillet, or maybe a SCOBY... So, I think we're going to go with making something. (But it's 10:30 and I don't know what. The odds that it will be "something laminated" are increasing as we approach midnight, I'm not gonna lie.) The kids are doing a similar gift plan, but they're planning on doing a Dirty Santa exchange instead of drawing names.

Em crocheted a mermaid while we read today.

I.... I've got nothing like that up my sleeve.

So James and I were thinking homemade treats would be nice. But of the group, we have varying degrees of dietary restrictions: sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, peanut-free, Keto, and Paleo. Plus one who can pretty much only eat cotton candy and nuts. (It's not that bad, but if I'm going to feed her, I take a picture of the ingredients, or the label on a product and text her, "Can you eat this?" Because if I guess, I will guess wrong!)

James happily decanted some of his vanilla erythritol, slapped a bow on it, and went back to studying. John grabbed a carabiner, which he hails as "the most useful thing since the pocket knife", wrapped it, and went back to studying. Jacob made a bracelet. Jase found a recipe for mint chocolate cookies that meets ALL of the dietary limitations of the group, so that's what he wants to make in the morning.

I still don't know what I'm going to do for the gift exchange, but in my search for inspiration I found some neat links to random things you can feed people who have special dietary requirements and thought perhaps you would enjoy some of them. (I've been full-on Keto for the last year, and feel amazing. But we don't really eat a lot of treats and sweets and such, so I haven't looked for alternatives. We make our mayo and sriracha and everything else can be killed or grown. Boy, was that search eye-opening! I had NO IDEA how far recipes had come for the dietary-restricted diets! Dang, people, way to get creative with your bad selves!)

First up, I found this recipe for what the author says is a lot like a Jolly Rancher. It's made with xylitol and either LorAnn's candy flavoring or unsweetened Kool-Aid. Oh, and a hot plate. (We do not have a hot plate, or a mug warmer, much to James' sorrow, so we used the coffee pot. It seems to have worked.) I didn't get pictures of the process because I am so far out of that frame of mind you wouldn't believe it. But it's a very low key process. We didn't add enough flavoring, I think. Prototypes are like that. But we also did not napalm anyone in the kitchen, break the coffee pot, or poison the dog. Plus, it's very satisfying to get xylitol to crystallize.

Then I found this mother lode of links for mug cakes. Paleo, low-carb, crazy, rampant cake recipes! I haven't made them, yet, but we did put Meyer lemons on the grocery list. I'm kind of toying with the idea of having batches pre-made and bagged with mugs set out, so guests can just pick their mix, dump it into a mug, and IT'S A PARTY!

If I can get up and out the door early enough tomorrow to buy some Swerve, I really want to make these Butterfinger Bars by Maria Emmerich.

And my sweet friend who has to preview ingredients graciously sent me her own pumpkin "pie" recipe after Thanksgiving... I doubled the egg count, threw in a titch of stevia, and we ate the whole danged thing. So she's getting a ramekin of that with whipped coconut cream tomorrow. In a heart shape, because I love her, and I'm a dork, and it'll make her smile.

Then we'll sit and catch up on each other's lives over the last week. We'll share a few quiet minutes while the kids play The Resistance and yell in the other room. We'll refresh our spirits and bolster ourselves for the coming week. It's good stuff.

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Saturday, June 25

So, we survived...

PET scan in April showed complete remission. I'm really glad for that. A side effect of chemo I hadn't anticipated was the chemo brain. Suddenly, I was totally incapable of doing the *one* thing I've done for the last 17 years - managing our home. It's taken me about that long to get good at it, and suddenly, *POOF*, gone. I couldn't do it. I couldn't interpret a calendar. I couldn't remember what we were supposed to do. I couldn't formulate complete thoughts that led anywhere. It was like living with the Cheshire Cat in control of all cognitive processes. That pretty well tanked all my good intentions to have blog entries about the chemo process and beating cancer (because I totally had no intention of losing this one). Not that anyone would have known that, had I lost. (Aaaannnd, someone's talking to me, again, in spite of the fact that I'm typing. This is significantly easier to cope with when I have my brain back, but I've gotta tell you, it still makes me feel stabby.)

Anyway, we did it. We survived. And now, we're picking up the pieces. There are more pieces than I'd expected. It's like coming out of an amnesiac state only to find your family has suffered some kind of traumatic event that you don't quite know how to address. But we're working on it.

We're also piecing together the educational train wreck that was our Year of Unintentional Unschooling. Turns out, we're lousy unschoolers in general, but not entirely. The kids have continued to learn, in spite of the bizarre circumstances. And I'd wager that the stress of Educating with Dory was less of a hurdle that trying to maintain an institutional schedule would have been. So, there's that. Hurrah for Unintentional Wins!

You want to know what the best thing is for a family surviving chemo? Good friends. I don't mean well-meaning people who can't quite make eye contact but they feel really badly for you. I mean the kind of friends who will take your kids while you have a bone marrow biopsy. The kind of friends who will take up the slack in your co-op schedule because you can look straight at the syllabus and not be able to say whether you need to prepare for oxidation or molarity next week. Because words are hard when your brain doesn't work. The kind of friends who will still be willing to sit and chat with you about over coffee about normal stuff - the weather, books, the upcoming art festival, books-that-aren't-about-cancer, the last Scout trip, and maybe books. I can't tell you how much that means when you're in the middle of a weird experience that you don't want to be in, that doesn't necessarily have an end point, and that may not have the outcome you'd banked your very life on. Be that friend. Have that friend. We were so, so blessed to have more than one, and I just hope I live long enough to pay it forward, backward, and under the table. Because these people were the real sanity savers.

And that, my friends, is so much more than I could have wished for.

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Monday, October 27

I Have Learned Something Very Important

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

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

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

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

We've been to museums...


And toured Cathedral Caverns...


Celebrated with friends...


And visited an apple orchard...


We did forensics labs with friends,


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


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


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

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Tuesday, September 23

Tiny Co-Op

I've avoided using a co-op for ten years. Mostly, we just never found one that would fit what we'd need from an outside source. But this year, we have six students who needed Biology. And labs sound like a lot more fun with friends. So three families got together and put together a Tiny Co-op. It's just Biology. And snacks.


The Littles do their thing during the class period (usually begging food off the host of the week). JakeRabbit works on whatever he needs to wrap up before the next library trip, and wanders in to observe. (He's made it fairly clear that I need to plan on doing something similar when he hits high school.) The high school students do their research independently and the labs in pairs.


They have absolutely blown me away with what they're doing. Not just the way they cover the material, but their willingness to discuss topics in depth. And one of our students does some absolutely fantastic lab drawings! I'll see if she will let me take a picture next week so I can share it. All around, it's been a fun reminder that teens are incredibly capable, funny, insightful, and diligent. (Or they can be, when they have the opportunity.)

We're using High School Biology in Your Home, from Bridget Ardoin. The students are given the topic and questions to answer over the course of the week. They can use whatever material they want to do their resource (so the first week we covered the elements of a trustworthy, reputable source). They learn to cite their sources, follow rabbit trails, and fill in the depth of their knowledge as much as they are motivated to. The labs are fantastic. There are enough typos in the printed material that it's a bit distracting, and I'd love to get my hands on fixing them. But the process is sound, and we'll definitely be using her Chemistry program next year.

I hope everyone else is willing to co-op again!


And just for fun, the boys' Troop had a cook-off at the meeting last night. Each patrol had to prepare a trail meal over a camp stove, and then present its meal to the judges. That was hilarious and fantastic. After the judging, the boys ate the evidence. (I didn't get to the camera in time to snap a shot of the full production.) Once again, kids will blow you away if you give them half a chance.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Saturday, September 6

This is the week that will not end

Some weeks seem to go on forever in an idyllic onslaught of joy and adventure.

This is not one of those weeks. This week we're all on full throttle, but only half the cylinders are firing, so there are are lot of backfires and rough starts. It's crazy. We've been up and out the door early every morning this week, and that's starting to wear on our collective nerves. We'll have to be out the door early both mornings this weekend, too, and I suspect the boys are about to lobby for a Late Start Monday policy after weeks that carry this level of intensity. If they don't, I just might.

But it's all good stuff. Today was particularly fun: our local homeschool social group started back. It felt so good to get in there and *know* people, to see kids we haven't seen all Summer and spend time with friends we've seen just recently, to hear the plans for the coming months and get excited all over again about what we've got to look forward to. That part was awesome. Today, I felt like I was home, and remembered being new and feeling like an alien interloper every time I walked in to the meeting. It's good to be over that. It's good to be home.


And we have a lot of new families with teens, so that's also exciting. Except for the part where people seem to think I'm in charge of teen activities... which I'm not. Or, more accurately, I strive very hard not to be. I will continue to insist that I'm just inviting people to come do things we were going to do, anyway. The idea of giving the impression that I'm organized, or that any of our outings resemble anything other than relatively organic eruptions of activity in beautiful surroundings, is likely to leave people disappointed. But if they show up to hang out with friends, make new friends, and maybe see or do something interesting in the meantime, then yeah, I'm your gal. I hope the new families are very laid back and understanding. That would also be pretty fantastic!

Homer took off Tuesday to do... whatever it is cats do when they take off. I don't know. This is the first time he's done it, and he hasn't really told me much about his trip. Kerouac impressions? Do they find wild catnip and discarded absinthe bottles and channel their inner Hunter S. Thompson? Whatever it was (and based on his condition when he showed up this afternoon, I'm laying odds he could tell you stories about those bats), he is home. He's eaten an entire can of tuna and hasn't stopped purring and kneading the floor since he got in. He hobbles around like a 90yo after hip replacement surgery, and he with every step he gripes like a hungover co-ed: "Ow. Ugh. Ow. Damn. Ow. Oh, cold floor. Gah, I should have just peed in the closet."


Bless him for not peeing in my closet. And we're all really glad he's back. But dang if that wasn't the longest week of trying to be optimistic I think I've had in a while. I tried to keep it positive for the kids, but by this morning, they were looking at each other skeptically, as if to say, "Do you think we should tell her he's probably dead?" So, yay for having Homer Kitty home.

Z was on the road for work the first half of the week, but he got home a couple of days early. The littles made him a welcome home banner and hung it on the door. The boys refrained from watching shows they know Z would like to watch with them. I love that they notice his absence. I love that his presence makes such an impact on our home, and our lives. He is pretty much everything a family could want in a Dad. And he puts up with us and our weirdness - our wonky schedule, random animals, weird diet, non-stop talking. Yep, we're pretty fortunate.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Monday, September 1

As You Like It

Every year, I remember that Nashville has a Shakespeare in the Park performance. Usually, I remember this the week after the last performance. So this year, we invited friends (accountability), picked a date (procrastination), and we went! I am so glad we did.


It was absolutely fantastic. We took our blankets and spread out on the grass near the front of the stage. This is probably my favorite way to watch live theater, now. It was a long day, with the 2-hour drive each way, but that was made more fun with friends. It was, without a doubt, absolutely worth it, though.

Everything about this performance by the Nashville Shakespeare Festival was delightful and engaging, but one thing I hadn't thought about before hand was the music. This is *Nashville*! The music blew us all away. At first, we didn't think the actors on stage were singing live. It was too good. Then we realized that's exactly what they were doing. So that was like getting a whole other performance on top of the Shakespeare.


I would have better pictures, but they asked us not to take pictures during the performance (understandable), and we were just having too much fun visiting, watching, laughing, and eating during the time we could take photos.

Actually, most of the pictures I did get centered around the food. They had Thai, Egyptian, and BBQ. Oh, how much we spent trying a little of everything! I'm so glad my kids are adventurous eaters. And we do love some food truck food. (As an aside, anybody ever call them "roach coaches"? I get that that's considered derogatory, but we always meant it affectionately. I'm working very hard on not squealing with delight, "Oh! Let's see what's at the roach coach!" when we pull into a venue and see the trucks lined up. But I do still say it on the inside.)


So, yes, Mr. Shakespeare, we did like it. We liked it very much. From the atmosphere to the production to the food trucks, this was one of our favorite outings of 2014 so far.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Monday, July 21

Post Circe (but mid-processing)

This post won't be about anything profound and life altering, but that's not because Circe isn't profound and life altering. It's because I'm still processing, and there's a lot to process. Plus, I have stories from the children of their week, which also requires a little bit of processing. (They made a game called Call of Calvin Ball - it's a Call of Duty/Calvin Ball mashup, and it's hilarious, as far as I can tell through the doubling over laughter while they tried to explain it.)


They ate a lot of cereal and doughnuts while I was gone. And Z said they picked up a bit when I let them know we were on I-65. He laughed at the awkward silence that followed that statement and asked, "You couldn't tell, could you?" (No. Not really. But I'd kind of prepared for that, so it didn't bother me. Everyone was safe and happy and all together. I had hugs and stories and love. It's all good.) They also mulched the fruit trees, moved the compost, and cleared a workout space in the basement! What a wonderful surprise!

I convinced a local friend to go with me. So fun! I do hope she'll do it again some time. We had such a lovely time on the road, and at the conference. I'm also fairly certain both her husband and Z will appreciate us having someone else to listen to all the verbal processing that ensues post-conference.

This conference was perhaps the best I've ever been to. The venue was magnificent. The speakers were all thoughtful and engaged. The session topics were spot on and beautifully presented. (The theme this year was Forging a Likeness. Fantastic.) Blessedly, the air in the hotel worked, so we weren't sweltering all week.


At the beginning of the conference, we each set goals that we wanted to achieve for the purpose of the conference, then selected the sessions that would best support those goals. That's a fantastic tip for attending any conference, I think. It helps me, at least, to go into it with purpose rather than careening about from room to room like a biblioholic on a binge. At the end of the week, I did feel that I'd achieved the goals I'd set for myself. We have a fantastic plan for the boys' high school years, and I have a guideline for continuing my own education.

As a funny aside, one of my goals was to speak in a coherent manner to one of the presenters - to utter some kind of thoughtful thing that did not involve breaking out in a Beavis chuckle at any point. Don't laugh. This was harder than it sounds. I get a little star struck around the rock stars of Classical Education. These are the people whose work and words of insight and encouragement have been my constant companions for the last ten years. When I'm on a roll, it's their example I hold before me. When I'm exhausted and the chaos seems to have seeped into my very bones, it's their stories that remind me this is worth doing well and encourage me to take a deep breath and get back into the game. I appreciate their work and efforts, but at the same time, I get a little giddy and develop stress paralysis when I'm required to interact with them in any manner more intimate than asking questions during a session. To keep myself from chickening out, I shared this goal with my companions. (Who, it turns out, are incredibly hilarious and encouraging, but not much actual help. I love having friends who make me laugh!)


But I did it. I thanked Martin Cothran for his session on Aristotle's Seven Motivations of Man (which was truly fantastic), and we talked about young men and motivation. I didn't giggle once, but at the same time, I didn't feel giggly. I felt comfortable and confident. This man has raised children. He has looked at a 16yo son and had similar thoughts bolt through his mind that bolt through the mind of pretty much any parent of a 16yo son. And he emerged on the other side (several times over), with a good relationship with his children, and without throwing the whole project out the window or running away to Tijuana. (That last bit may only be a temptation for me. That's very probable.) But it was a delightful interaction, and I appreciated that he took the time to visit with me so affably and sweetly.


Then I just had to ask Wes Callihan for some suggestions for modern theologians for James to read. Because Mr. Callihan is brilliant, and James has exhausted all the names I already know. (At 15, I think I knew the names of maybe two, and I hadn't read either of them. That I'm having to troll professionals for suggestions to keep my child in titles cracks me up and makes me very happy.) Again, it was a truly helpful and interesting interaction. He is delightful and generous, and I'm so glad he took the time to be there, to answer questions, and to engage each of us who approached him. I should send him cookies. (I would send a book, but he's probably already read anything I could come up with to send. Goal #4 should be to remedy that.)

After that (and there was a little giggling after the fact, along with tiny low fives among friends, because this was huge, as anyone who has heard my celebrity triggered verbal diarrhea can attest - like I said, I love and appreciate my friends so much), things came together. I was Home. I was exactly where I belonged, and able to shed the feeling that someone was going to figure out I wasn't qualified to be there and have me escorted off the property. (Our fears are not always rooted in reality. That doesn't stop them from being ours.)


In the hotel room (or the lobby, or poolside), among friends, we engaged in fantastic, thoughtful conversation. We perused books. We shared excerpts with each other. We ate and laughed and told silly stories. Deb the Magnificent drove us all over Houston and acted as our official tour guide (she was the only one who knew where things were, but I think also the only one brave enough to drive in that traffic). We laughed some more. Some of us laughed until we cried. We sat at the table in the back at the banquet because we were pretty sure we'd be a little loud. It was a good call.


I wasn't ready to leave when the conference was over. But my brain was saturated, and I missed my family so very much, so the timing was perfect. It was time to come home, to kiss my babies (even the ones who have to bend down now for me to reach their heads), to thank Z for his unyielding support in this life we've built, and to contemplate the themes of the conference and prepare to continue engaging in the conversation.

It's good to be home. It was good to be there.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy