Showing posts with label kids rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kids rock. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 13

Cooking and Juggling

I've been trying to pin down the schedule so that I can catch James in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon (or any other day, I'm not picky) when we're both here, motivated, and hungry (because it's fun to make things more challenging), in the hopes of guiding him through kitchen basics.

Now, before you think, "Wait, he's how old? How does he not know how to cook?" I would like to point out that he KNEW how to cook. He did, and for several years he was a very good cook. But through either a particularly rough chemical upheaval during adolescence, or perhaps an undiagnosed brain injury, or just an increased focus on other things, he has forgotten. It's simply gone; replaced, perhaps, with philosophical inquiry, or scenes from Dumb and Dumber. I don't know. As with much of parenting, it doesn't, at this point, matter much how he forgot how to cook as it does that we remedy it. So, we've been working on that. I'm still cooking seven days a week, and I have no clue what he eats most of the time, but we've managed to get together about once a week (or once every other week, because we're both busy and disorganized) to cook together.

Last Sunday, I made beef enchiladas and he worked alongside me, making a keto version of the same thing. He did a fabulous job. They were delicious and beautiful! Then he ate them all in just a couple of sittings, and there went my plan for him to have ready made food to eat at his place. Next time, we'll double the recipe!

So, since we're often scattered to the winds during the week, we need quick foods, or foods that can be eaten on the go. Since we're all busily engaged in the work of learning, doing, and living, we need foods that are nourishing and that support our endeavors. And, since there are roughly eight billion of us, we need foods we can afford (which means not eating out, even if we find a place that meets the first two requirements!)

This has become my favorite go-to for quick meals on the go:

I found the recipe here, at FlavCity. They do a lot of Starbucks replications in low-carb versions, which is fun (and dangerous - I have an unrepentant sweet tooth)! So far, everything we've tried from this site has been delicious and easy. Kudos to their team for putting together a great resource!

I will readily admit (and those who know me would think I was lying if I didn't just come out with it) that I don't always follow the recipe. This one is very forgiving of additions and slight alterations. (So, if you don't have gruyere, you can use apple smoked cheddar, asiago, Lustenberger (which tastes very earthy and bakes up nicely), or straight up shredded cheddar from Costco. Seriously, use what you have and eat it like you meant it. Life is better that way.

John hates the taste and flavor of cheese and cheese products, so I add jalapenos and cracked black pepper to his. If all he tastes is HOT, then he's a happy camper. It's our unspoken agreement. Well, either that, or he's going to move out and never eat here again. I'm not sure. But he knows he's loved, so there is that.

In the meantime, I've also been thinking up meal options for a dear older lady so that I can cook for her. She's dairy-free, and it was at this point that I realized I cannot just make extra of what we eat and share it with her. We eat a LOT of cheese! Never have I been so thankful that none of us is lactose intolerant in my life! Wowsa! I'm drawing a lot of blanks on that one, and about thisclose to buying diary-free cheese ("cheese"?) to see if our recipes are adaptable for her.

I hope you try something new this week! And I hope it helps you juggle what you've got going on!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 28

Go For It

Jacob wants to attend a summer program for dance. If you're serious about your dance, this appears to be someone non-negotiable. Okay. We can do that.

Turns out, audition season starts right-the-immediate-hell-after-New-Years. Or, more importantly, hot on the heels of Nutcracker season. So that's like surviving a typhoon only to head straight into tornado country. It's probably not that bad once you already know the rhythm, but if you're new, it's exhausting, confusing, a little stressful, and rather expensive.

Learning about this process is like trying to get a straight answer out of Lindsay Bluth. I don't know how they know these things, or where they learned about them. Other people do seem to know where they want to go; we only know that there are places to go. We've researched and read, we've checked FAQs and found ballet blogs and websites. It's all still clear as mud.

"Where does Jacob want to go?"

"Somewhere that'll take him ... You know, I'm glad you asked. Which programs are good?"

"It depends on the child."

"Uh ... It's Jacob. You've met him. Where would you recommend?"

"It depends on what he wants."

"Okay, he would love to find X,Y,Z."

"It really depends on the program."

"Okay, we'd like A, B, C."

"It'll really depend on the instructor."

Huh? I've put in nearly 100 hours researching this, and I am no closer to having a clue what I'm doing now than I was in December.

Also, I realize it's terribly gauche to talk about money, but I'll be honest, if I had a spare $4K-$9K lying around, we'd be doing something Very Different at the moment than working every spare minute, driving on bald tires. So, in my world, that's a thing. And it's a thing that really must be discussed before commitments can be made. (We found several places that will allow students to apply for scholarships after they've auditioned, been accepted, committed to attending the program, and paid a $500 non-refundable deposit. Clearly, those are not schools that would be a good fit for us. So, I guess I have learned at least something so far.)

He's only been dancing for a year, so he's not highly competitive. We get that. However, you don't get any better if you don't push yourself and try. At least, that seems to be his approach. Bless him. So, there were two auditions this weekend in Atlanta. But I worked all day Saturday, Z is in New Mexico, and the Volvo is still on lockdown because it can't be trusted not to kill people. That leaves one vehicle, which really needed to be with John, at home, in case the Littles blew something up or jumped off the roof, or ... I don't know. I mean, they're actually the least likely to ever do anything dangerous, but I'd rather they have guidance and a ride to the ER on hand and never need it than for them to need it and not have it. So. There we were. A willing and eager student and no way to get to Atlanta.

I ran through the moms-of-boys at the school, and nobody I had contact information for was going. (Which, really, ought to have been a clue that this was going to be a gnarly couple of auditions, but have I mentioned we're new here?) So I started poking the few moms-of-girls I have contact info for. A dear, sweet friend offered him a place to stay in Atlanta and a ride to auditions (or we could have even Ubered), so he only needed to get TO Atlanta. Again, nobody was going.

Then I found one. She and her daughter were leaving that day, right after lunch. Could he make it in time?

Yes, yes he could. (NOW we're in familiar territory! If I know how to make something happen, I can make it happen in record time. That's one of my gifts. Thank you, Lord!) We made a mad dash around town to get his photos printed, snag fresh t-shirts, and switch out a pair of tights. (I'd bought him a replacement pair last week, thinking I was so on the ball -- but no, Body Wrappers tights are sized VERY differently than Capezio. So differently. That was awkward.) Pointe Dancewear, in Madison, however, is the most magnificent place to get dance gear. I am very thankful for them.

Home to pack, and they were off.

He did it. I don't know how he did. I plied him with questions (like I do) and he refused to talk about it until he's eaten and slept (like he does). All he was willing to say was, "Turns out those are the two hardest programs out there." Oh. Oops. I'll probably hear more this week.

Regardless of what the schools thought of him, though, he now has two auditions under his belt. He's not completely new at this. He knows a little better what to expect. He knows what he can do. He knows what they want. He has some better ideas, now, and that's so good.

So now we know a little more than we did before. See? We're learning!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, January 20

The Birthday Outing

So, it was 11 degrees on Em's birthday. Not inside, obviously, (thankfully) but just knowing it's that cold has an impact. We didn't even get dressed until noon. So, the manicure and the lunch with the boys will have to wait.

BUT, we did go out that day, and we fed her little heart.

First, we went to Anthropologie. I don't shop there. Mainly, because I have very little money. And I have to explain what I've done with it, which would be very hard to do if I spent the entire grocery budget on a throw pillow and a new coffee mug. However, I knew that it would satisfy an aspect of her heart to just BE in that environment. To see things that were designed with an aesthetic that she appreciates. To touch fabrics you don't find at Target or Kohl's, and to peer into designs that are inspired by something bigger than things close to home. To be inspired by what can be done when you have a vision.

We were there for an hour and a half, folks. An hour and a half in a tiny store, and she was not bored for a second. She was awed, and she was thrilled, and she was just quietly enthralled. I followed her around, letting her explain everything to me.

"Mom, feel this bead pattern, now feel this one. See how they feel different?" (For the record, no. My hands are calloused and I hadn't thawed out from the walk to the store yet. But I listened, and smiled, because she was showing me how she experiences the world.)

"Oh, look how they get different results with different knots. Also, they used knots. That's brilliant."

"Ohhhhh, squeeze this. Just grab it in your hands. Isn't that fantastic?"

"We need to find out where you can get this fabric and make one of these."

"Did you touch that plate? You should. It's amazing."

She comes to a dead stop. "Sniff, right here. Do you smell that? What is that?" So we sniffed around and couldn't find the source. We asked an employee to help us find it. She couldn't, either. We have no idea what we were smelling, but it was Stop You In Your Tracks lovely.

Then, we headed to Justice, where she got what I can only describe as her Tween Uniform.

It's adorable. Blessedly, they have a lot of decent, cute stuff this year. It's not an Anthropologie wardrobe, but it works. The ladies who work there were so kind and fun. They made the visit enjoyable. She got a water bottle that the boys won't steal and lose. She got some leggings and some t-shirts. We laughed and poked around. It was a very different vibe, but just as fun.

And now, she is 12. Gosh.

I haven't said it in a while, because (obviously) they aren't babies anymore, but still ...

Kiss those babies!

~ Dy

Monday, January 15

Birthday Ideas

I've accidentally published this post twice without meaning to because the pads of my hands keep bumping the little track pad on my laptop, tabbing me all over the place, one spot of which seems to be the Publish button. I need a little pad protector to put on it so that I can type without having to worry about my fat hands engaging that pad. (James would say I need to install Linux, which has a two-second delay before the thing activates, or something like that. I am almost there ...)

Anyway, with Em's birthday coming up, I started pestering her for ideas back in August. Because that's how you have to do with the gentle thinkers. You can't just hit them up at Costco the day of and say, "What do you want to do today? Sky's the limit!" They freeze, and you end up buying them an .89 bladder buster and a 30-roll pack of paper towels. I learned this the hard way.

After much mulling and thinking (seriously - it was January before she got back to me on most of this), she decided she'd like to get her ears pierced, get a manicure (she's hoping this will help her not bite her nails), go to lunch with the boys, and redo her room.

So, we started putting a plan in action. She got her ears pierced this weekend.

I've no clue on the manicure, and haven't had the bandwidth to track that down, but I'll do that today. Lunch with the boys will be at the 88. That's where they eat. It's what they do. It's their thing. It's also the only place in town you can get spicy squid, which is Very Important to Jase. (And? All this time, I had no idea they had a website. That's so cool!)

Her room is functional, but it's a mash-up of Stuff Her Brothers Didn't Want, Stuff She's Duct Taped or Sewn, and then things that usually began with, "Oh, crap, you probably need sheets (shelves, hangers, etc.), don't you?" So, it's functional, but other than the constant craft debris littering the floor, you'd never guess anyone lived there on purpose. She wanted to fix that.

She's been going through it, fixing up what she can with what we had on hand (this isn't as sad as it sounds - we have a lot on hand) and making a list of what she'll need. She's been making little changes, such as snagging a mint green sheet from the linen closet to go with her pink bedding, hanging lights above the window shades, adding pastels here and there, hanging drawings on the walls.

She asked if we can paint her bookshelf white with pink, yellow and blue distressed spots. (I said yes before I realized we were actually going to have Winter this year. We have to paint in the garage or outside, so she may be able to do that for Easter. Or Memorial Day. It's not happening on her actual birthday, though.)

Last week, she asked if she could "do something about that sad brown lamp shade". Of course. Good thing she'd asked for "virtually unlimited duct tape" and "gel pens of my very own" for Christmas! It's the gift that keeps on giving.

I only recently realized that what she really asked for for her birthday was to be left alone to craft. LOL! Clever girl. So that's what we shall do for her birthday - give her glue and stay out of the way. It's how she knows she's loved.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, January 10

New Terms, New Plans

Sometimes, these kids are so my kids. Jacob got on it over Christmas break and did all the school work he didn't get done during the fall. This included reading Aeschylus' trilogy, and getting through two of the three Oedipus plays. He got half way through Antigone, but didn't wrap it up before ballet started back up (so that may not be finished until Easter, now). He even pulled off some great note taking and good discussion. I do get it, and I empathize. But there's a reason I don't have a degree yet. (Aside from the whole, "Oh! I know! Let's have children!" thing.) Now, though, if he could only do that, spread out over the term, I could probably relax and breathe a little. When you're in college, you don't get to complete your work and turn it in after finals week  ... Maybe I should have James take him out for coffee and a little brotherly Come to Jesus about timeliness?

Meanwhile, everyone's new semesters have begun!

John's back at it, and this is going to be a pivotal term for him. In order to qualify for the Paramedic program that starts in the Summer term, he's got to nail this one with a good score, even from the Russian judge. Not just doing what he needs to do to pass the National Registry exam in June, but he's got to pass this Bio 201 class. He had to get a waiver from the Dean and the Dual Enrollment coordinator to take it while still in high school, and he had to promise the Dean that he's not going to try to hold down a job while juggling clinicals and this course. So. No pressure, there. Go get it, kiddo! You can do this!

I hate having so much on the line for a 17yo, but he's braced for it and looking forward to it. It seems ... dumb to discourage a young person from taking on a challenge he's looking forward to, so I'm in Smile-Nod-and-Feed mode. I think he can do it. And if it doesn't work, he'll be better off for the effort and we'll make a Plan B. This is how life works, right? The key is to keep moving, keep learning, and not give up.

James came in the other day and announced he'd added a macroeconomics class to his schedule for the Spring. "It sounded fun." He and I have very different ideas about what a fun semester looks like. But again, he's doing what he loves and braced for the challenge. He wants to graduate as quickly as possible so he can get hired on full time where he is. He's happy, productive, and headed in a good direction. I can't complain. I can get a little queasy, but I can't actually complain.

Now, to convince Jacob to actually do some work between now and Cinderella ... right? Wish me luck!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, January 8

Five Minutes Until I Go

James got up early to air up the tire in the Highlander for me before I leave this morning. That is such a gift! I know he probably doesn't think so, but it is. (The tire's got a slow leak that's just this side of the tread, so they can't legally plug it. *Cue grouchy old lady noises, "In my day..." *waves cane*) But anyway, it's on the payday list of Stuff That Needs Attending - which is not nearly as much fun to make as, say Grocery Lists, or Birthday Lists, but it's very important.)


And then, I had to go. Spent too much time sipping coffee instead of typing, I guess.

That was Friday morning? Saturday? I don't remember. But now it's Sunday night. The week is over. We made it. I am so stinking proud of these kids. They're rolling into the Spring semester with gusto, and they've made this single parenting gig a relative cake walk. It's still about zero fun, but at least it's not a logistical nightmare, as well.

The house is freakishly quiet, and cold. I should go to bed, but I don't want to climb into a chilly bed. Should have asked for a hot water bottle or an electric blanket for Christmas.

Between the move and the job, The Nutcracker and the flu, we never made it to the beach house to see The Aunts. That made me inordinately sad. Then, Aunt B texted to say they were on their way home and planned to swing by! Oh, I'm so glad! We'll made some delicious food, and crack open some delicious wine, and visit. I can't wait to hear about their winter beach adventures!

On that note, though, I have got to get to bed. Sundays are long sometimes. I should sleep well.

Be encouraged!


Friday, January 5

Some days start earlier than others ...

I grabbed a transcription file yesterday - a nice, long, difficult one, since I didn't have any outside work coming up, and I figured I could work on it at my leisure throughout the day and really make sure it was tight. I love that feeling, when you know you've done a job spot on. It wasn't due until 11 today, so that was perfect.

Then I got a text last night - can I fill in a shift for someone who can't make it in the morning? Of course I can. (This is a really wonderful position, working with a truly delightful lady, and I am so thankful for having these beautiful people in our life.)

About an hour later, it hit me. I just bumped my transcription deadline up by four hours because I'd have to leave the house by 7:00. 😨 Well, that wasn't particularly brilliant. What can I say? I'm new at this.

So after dinner, I tasked the children with putting the living space to rights before they turned in, and I slipped off to bed super early. I was up and wide awake this morning at 2:30, and was able to finish the job and submit it in time to leave for work!

I need a GIF for that. It's definitely more Mr. Magoo than Wonder Woman, but you know, mostly it's about appreciation for having opportunities and being able to find ways to make things work, honor our commitments, and live a rich, healthy life.

What absolutely made my day, though, was getting texts from the older boys. "Do you mind if I take the Littles to Skate Day?" and "I'm taking Jacob to the movie." Oh! Well done, boys! Wow.

Got home to find John studying, and the house picked up. That's like Second Christmas for a mom!

So, to celebrate, we're sitting very still and not moving for a little bit. Just taking stock of the good things in the day ... It got above freezing for a few minutes today. That was exciting. (It's about to dip way back down, though, so the faucets are staying on.) ... Z is doing well - we talked this morning and he described the Sandias in the morning sunlight - I can't wait to see that again! ... School is back up and running, ballet, theater, Bible study ... There's coffee. (It's a little thing, but it's a thing, and I appreciate it.)

Not every season is going to be easy. Sometimes the seasons that you think will do you in turn out to be the easiest of the challenging parts of your life, and you'd love to go back and do them again with the knowledge you have currently. (It's like doing 1st grade math when you're in 6th grade, and you laugh and laugh that you'd been so frustrated when you first learned it. If you do find yourself feeling like that, wishing for the exhaustion of toddlers, or the "busyness" of playdates and field trips to the zoo, give yourself some kudos for having come far enough to do that. That's good stuff. You've got this.) And then, take stock of the good things. They're there in plenty.

Be encouraged!


Thursday, January 4

They know me so well!

If you've got your sense of humor, you stand a good chance of keeping your health. I firmly believe this. And so, evidently, do my older children ...

This was one of my favorite gifts this Christmas. Not only because we desperately need magnets that don't fall off if you swing the refrigerator door too enthusiastically, but because it made me laugh. The last seven or eight weeks have been mentally hectic, butt-puckeringly scary, and in general, really, really hard.

Not too hard for God, which is great, but definitely too hard for me. And the kids haven't ever actually seen me admit that there's something I'm not sure I can do. But they have now. And they've stepped up. I mean, they're still kids, and when you're a kid, offering to share your coin jar to help with groceries, or volunteering to share your fuzzy blanket seems a lot more satisfying than, say, clearing your spot after dinner, or doing the chores without being prompted, or maybe even just not nattering at your siblings for hours on end so that Mom can work. So, they haven't really felt that my requests were sane, or truly helpful, but they've shrugged and exchanged eye rolling glances, then stepped up and tried to contribute to the sense of overall peace and productivity that we needed in the house. So that's been pretty fantastic.

And no, I have not taken to drinking heavily. But I've joked about it. And John knew just what would make me laugh out loud. I'm so glad he ran with it.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 3

The Nutcracker

Well, THIS was exciting. A year ago, Jacob sat in the farthest row of the highest balcony at the Von Braun Center and watched, mesmerized, as The Nutcracker played out before us. He leaned forward, spellbound, the entire performance, but particularly watching the men's parts - the Nutcracker Prince, the Rat King, the dolls. He was captivated by the power and strength of the dancers. When he asked if he could do that, we had no idea that this December would find him backstage, preparing for his own parts.

All week, he kept whispering at random, "This is what started it all. And I'm here." He was in a bit of a dream world.

He gave his all to every role. As a Party Teen, he was so exuberant and festive. He was so, so great with the little ones on stage. He was a delight to watch.

As a gypsy, he was beautiful and vibrant. I got to watch from the wings one night when he danced that part, and the look on his face as he landed in the final position ... I will carry that image with me to my grave. I've never seen him look so happy, so at home (and this is a kid who is at home in most any setting, so that's saying something).

As half of the dragon, he was entertaining and delightful.

But most of all, he was kind, considerate, and engaged. He even goofed around with me a little bit!

The atmosphere backstage of a Huntsville Ballet Company production is one of the most professional, courteous, and team-driven endeavors I've ever been fortunate enough to witness. (I got to help, too, which was fabulous. Everyone should help backstage at least once, just to appreciate what goes into making the magic happen when the curtain goes up.) I could not have been more proud of him, or more pleased with where he is. They're a good fit, and I'm thankful for that.

For all the things we wish we could go back and do differently, or do better, I really feel like we've hit the sweet spot in encouraging them to pursue excellence, and to work hard at what they love. It's one thing to dream, but it's another to put your effort and hard work into achieving it. That's huge, and I am so thankful that he's doing just that.

Be encouraged!


Sunday, August 27

It's like Military Maneuvers

... if your military were staffed by clowns and hippies.

We pulled into the parking lot with one minute until prayer began. The car doors were flying open before the thing was in park, and I heard from somewhere in the back, "All right, troops, move, move, MOVE!"

I clambered out, gathered my things, and was formulating a response when I heard, "Or, you know, eventually. That works, too." It was John, who was standing there, holding the door open as the little moved ever so slowly toward the door, chatting, gathering their things, putting on their shoes.

I stifled a laugh and grabbed the rest of my things.

That one little interaction pretty much summed up our Sunday mornings. We may have grand plans and ambitions, but we're only going to move as quickly as our least-focused cadet. And yet, we made it without any yelling, or making anyone cry. Sometimes there's a bit of resignation, though.

I do wish I were a more consistent photo taker. Jase was wearing shorts and big, heavy shoes, and he just exuded Christopher Robin. It was precious and wonderful and made me smile every time he scampered off somewhere. I hope he's the one who picks my clothes for me when I'm old.

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, August 15

Brilliant Plans and... Other Ones

Yesterday was a rest day. Well, it was a school day and a rest day. OK, actually, it was a school day, a few small projects, a little more cleaning, and a rest day. But when Jase talked to Z about his day, he told him it was a rest day, "so we didn't do much but hang out, eat and read". Then he gave me credit for it! So it's officially going down as a rest day that I instituted. Because I don't often get credit for the occasional cool things I do. (This incident is not a prime example, since it wasn't actually a rest day, but I don't even mind at this point.)

We replaced the worn dry erase board in the linen closet door and cleaned and repainted the air return register. We washed some more walls. We made more lists. John had Favorite Child status for several hours because he dug around in the basement to find the panel that I knew was down there but which none of us had seen in ages. Many people thought it was a myth. I had even begun to think perhaps we'd thrown it out at some point. But no, he found it! And he cut a new panel and got it switched out.

Today, we all overslept. I awoke at 7:37, immediately registered that we were behind the 8-ball for an 8 o'clock hair appointment, and bolted out of bed to wake everyone else. AND we made it! We weren't coherent, or clean, or functional, but we were there. After that, and a hair cut, I needed a full-on shower. I was still a little sleepy, however, and didn't want to do the bag-wrap-tape routine on my finger (I sliced the tip off last week - rookie mistake that's more irritating and inconvenient than damaging, thankfully). So I grabbed a mechanic's glove. It worked great until I reached down to shave and the glove immediately filled up with water! Oops! Lesson learned - tape the wrist!

Jacob got his schedule recommendations today, so we're plugging things into grids to see what's going to work. I found a lot of schedule templates online that skip weekends, or end at 5. None were quite what I needed, but then I found one from Apache, an Open Office spreadsheet that was dead handy. If you use Open Office and need a planner template, this one's quite functional. I had to tweak the margins on my page set up a titch to get it to print on one page, but it's pretty good, otherwise.

We're all about to head into a completely new world with school. I feel like we're skydiving for the first time -- no clue what to expect and vaguely surprised to find us here even though this was the plan and we very intentionally got to this place. It's so strange. If you're kindly inclined, please keep all of the young men and women who are heading off to college, to internships, to work, in your prayers. They're in for some amazing adventures, but it doesn't hurt to have people actively pulling for you.

Be encouraged!


Thursday, July 27

The Fall School Plan, 2017-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Sunday, July 23


I have a den full of boxes and three empty book cases! We gave away one book case, and I hope to give away more this weekend. We learned a few things:

* If you want to get kids to read books, have them take books off a shelf to put in boxes. We got SO much reading done today! Like they discovered a secret library I'd been holding out on. It was hilarious.

* When your 18yo and your 11yo curl up on the couch to look at Rembrandt pictures together, you really can't care that they aren't working. (I already knew this, but it was a beautiful reminder.)

* One book case can hold a LOT of books! Wow, we are richly blessed with books.

* Dust is insidious.

* I'm wondering if white book cases would mitigate some of the room-shrinking effect... but then I wonder how bad it would look when they get dirty... then I spin around in circles like Gayle Waters-Waters preparing for company. So. No actual decisions, and I'm a little dizzy, now.

* Also, I need a vertically-capable roomba. Do those exist? If not, why not? I can't be the only person who's thought of asking Santa to look into this.

* And finally, we really should have gotten a storage shed before we started boxing things up. But, you live and learn. It'll be fine.

The nice part is that nobody minds working inside when it's hot 'n sticky out there! Plus, the Popsicles don't melt so quickly if you're indoors! Win!

Tomorrow's task will be the kitchen. It's already pretty tight, so I'm thinking it will be an easy day. Also, it's only going to be in the high 80's tomorrow! So that's downright doable!

Be encouraged!


Saturday, July 1

Good Saturday Morning!

It is T-2 until liftoff! How ridiculously exciting!

The Littles and I visited Miri and the Babies yesterday. She set it up for them to make homemade wikki stix, which was very cool and I think we're going to have to do that again in the future! The kids played while we visited, and although I really didn't want to run more errands yesterday, it was nice to do something for the Littles. And a little something for me, getting to spend time with a sweet friend.

While we were in town, we ran errands, as well. Found stuff sacks large enough to use as bear bag bags (which is awesome, thank you, Cabela's!) And lashing straps for John's pack (although I should have bought the ones at Walmart last week, to be honest - longer and less expensive for the same material, there). Live and learn.

Today, John and I will do the final pack up and make sure everything is secure, there's room for additional troop gear and the tents, and see if we've forgotten anything. Honestly, I've got food, I've got a good sleeping pad (and a repair kit), and I've got proper clothing. Anything beyond that is gravy at this point. We're ready to hit the trail.

Oh! My new Vibrams came in yesterday, too! I realized that I've trained in this one pair the whole time, plus our teen hikes, plus I wear them to the river, to the store, to work on the property... It's been a good year! The last thing I wanted, however, was to have a blowout on the trail and get stuck buying boots at the camp after I've done all my training in these. So I ordered the same size, style, and brand that I've been wearing. They look so pretty and new! And, seeing them side-by-side, I was glad I got another pair! The soles on my first pair are not as, erm, healthy as they seemed. Fortunately, once you're used to wearing Vibrams (which can take some time), the shoes themselves don't have the break-in period for a new pair that traditional shoes require, so they should be good to go by the end of this week. I'm taking the old ones as camp shoes and back up, though. Figure they deserve to see the desert mountains one more time.

Gotta pack for Circe today, too, and get my suitcase to a friend. She's going to meet me there with it so I'm not traveling with a week's worth of business attire to Philmont! I need to find her something that says, "I do not know what I'd do without you!" Maybe a mug that literally says that. But I'd have to fill it with gold bullion or Amazon gift cards or something, because she's really that amazing. And not just for her mad luggage hauling skills, either!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, May 31

Fast Arrivals and Sudden Stops

The family has arrived! They pulled in on Sunday evening, and as quickly as they entered, all progress on the house gave way to time enjoying baby giggles and cousin laughter.

Z's taken them fishing and to the water park. He is a larger-than-life figure, and I think he's enjoying it just as much as they are.

Tomorrow, we take a pontoon out on the river for a day of cruising and cove exploration! We've got the menu planned and the route figured out. The nephews will get a chance to pilot a boat beneath the bridge if they're very good. (Probably even if they're not. But they're good kids, so I'd put money on making it happen.)

I didn't go fishing, but got to stay behind and hold the newest addition to the family - a wee baby with scrunchy-faced expressions and laughter that starts in the toes! I also got to visit (in the comfort of climate controlled, upholstered space) with my dear Sister-in-Law for a bit. I've gotta say, my Brother-in-Law married quite a gem. She is just fantastic.

I didn't make it to the water park, either. Jacob needed ferrying from point A to point B, back to point A, and again to point B, and so on... We had inadvertently overbooked this week. He thought he hadn't received the Space Academy scholarship (he hadn't expected to, since he did receive it last year), so he committed to the school sketches at the ballet school, which take place the same week. About a month later, they received more funding and went through the applicants to see who else they could award it to. His application passed the second round. It was a wonderful conundrum - but one that required a good deal of logistics and a wee bit of heckling to make it happen. He made it, though, to all the rehearsals and tonight's performance, and he's thoroughly engaged and having a successful camp experience.

He also napped in the car for about an hour before the show. I don't blame him. You can only go 90 mph for so long before you have to stop.

And rest.

Which is what we've all been doing this week with the family, and it's been nice!

We'll need to muster some spring in our gait before this weekend, though. It's about to get busy!

I hope your last week of May is going beautifully!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, May 27

It feels so good to succeed.

(I found this in my drafts folder from 2008. It made me smile. I thought it should see the light of day.)

We all know that it feels good to succeed. We all know the power of praise well-earned. I think we (and by that, I mean "I") fall into the trap of wanting to praise perfection, and feeling exasperated by failures or struggles.

But life is full of failures and struggles. How we handle them is one true measure of success. (And perfection? Just throw that one out the window. It's overrated and stressful. Blech.) It doesn't take much to say simple things that have a strong impact on guiding how they learn to handle the struggles and failures:

I'm proud of you for sticking that one out.

You really put a lot of thought into that, and it shows. Good job.

Wow, you did it! *big smile*

Whew, that one used to be tricky, but it looks like you've mastered it.

Well done.

Slow down, I know you can do it.

It's okay. You gave it a good shot. We can try again tomorrow. How about we do...

You got farther today than you did before. Excellent.

Feels good to tackle a challenge, doesn't it?

And if it doesn't feel good to tackle a challenge? Well, then it's worth looking into why. That'll be different for everyone. I know when I'm not up for tackling a challenge, it's usually due to one of three things: I don't feel like I have the tools to tackle it; I don't have a clear idea of what, exactly, I'm supposed to do with it; I don't feel like I've got somebody in my corner on it. While I haven't done any official studies (and even if I had, I wouldn't be able to cite them because my organizational skills are deplorable), but my guess is that people often fear (or avoid...) taking on a challenge because of something very similar to that list.

The wonderful thing is that we can be a positive resource to eliminating those barriers. If we listen and provide presence and understanding, we can help them free themselves up to tackle the challenge, clear the hurdle, create the metaphor!

Be encouraged! (I added that bit tonight, but it seems appropriate)

~ Dy

Friday, May 26

Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering

Yes, it's time. Academics have been officially suspended (except for John's anatomy test, which he did, and then I think we decluttered it before he could turn it in - oops) and we are now in full-on Beast Mode on this house.

We have no duct tape. I don't know, exactly, how this happened, but it's true. (I suspect there are hand-crafted slippers or a wallet somewhere, lying beside an empty cardboard roll, but I can't prove it.)

We re-hung the dry erase board. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's been floating homelessly around the house ever since we bought the World's Best Couch two years ago. The World's Best Couch took up the space where both the previous couch and the desk/office area had been, and I took the board down because I didn't want people standing on the couch to draw on the board. Even with an extra wall, though (the one we built, which was triggered by the couch), we have little wall space (because I keep covering it with book shelves, I know, I'm sorry). But we found a spot, and yesterday, we made it official. I am so looking forward to not having to lift that thing up from wherever it's leaning so I can vacuum!

Em and Jase also finished getting the Big Blue 1 off of it yesterday. (I'd used it to hold a t-shirt for Jase's Animal Crossing cosplay so I could make sure the 1 was straight as I painted it on - but hadn't thought about the fact that spray paint would go straight through and stick to the board. D'oh! It's had a giant blue number 1 on it for a year as we have slowly, persistently, semi-diligently removed it.) So, for white boards, yesterday was pretty much a banner day.

We cleared out a few cabinets, too. We had four rolls of freezer paper, three of cling wrap, and a million brown paper bags. The freezer paper is Z. My mother never wanted to run out of Kleenex; Z never wants to run out of freezer paper. I get that. But I could not figure out what kind of crazy person would just tuck paper bags into random cabinets... WHY? Then I remembered, we used to use the paper bags to hold chips when we made them... Aaaandd, that I am the crazy person. I basically unearthed ten years of paper bag stuffing that I had done and forgotten about. Huh. Dementia is going to be a hoot with me. Anyway, there was massive headway in the cabinet department, but it's not terribly satisfying unless you look inside the cabinets. Which I may ask you to do if you come over.

Z and the boys finished the flood lights for the lower drive and installed a patio light beneath the balcony. People who arrive after dark no longer need arrive IN the dark. I'm so proud of us! All three of them are a bit stiff in the shoulders from working overhead for a few days, but the end results are worth it. Or at least Z thinks so. The boys haven't complained, either, and John did appreciate the light when he pulled in from work last night. Yay!

James is working on his piano piece for graduation. He won't practice without headphones, though, so I have no idea how it's coming along.

Jacob's getting stoked about Space Camp, Rocketry Camp, and Summer Intensive for ballet. That kid. He's a happy one.

I'm honestly just hoping and praying the graduation party is enjoyable for the guests and that we haven't trashed the house. That's my big goal. That, and I'm looking forward to taking the babies to the water park while they're here. And Big Springs Park, to feed the fish. And the Early Works Museum. And, and, and... I'm just very excited about having our nieces and nephews *here*! Woot!

Meanwhile, back to decluttering and painting...

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, May 25

College Orientation

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

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

And the overnight campus visit...

And the Honors Orientation.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged! And take notes!

~ Dy

Friday, April 28

Flailing Across the Finish Line

So, y'all. Yesterday. Oh, my word. I was out cold on the couch with a good book by eight o'clock and that still wasn't early enough!

We had the pest control company out again yesterday to spray for fleas. Again. Still. Always. I suspect he's feeding them and has begun to think of us as his personal, off-site aquarium. When this contract is up, we're done. One year is ample time to get rid of fleas when you're working with a family that is all about the vacuuming and treating and keeping debris away from the house, setting light traps and not living like animals. Really? If that's not enough support for the flea treatments to get rid of these bad boys, then we need to consider contacting the CDC or just fire bombing the house and moving.

Also, although I do enjoy a clean house, we're all a little tired of stacking all our belongings atop the furniture every couple of weeks. It's to clear the floor so he can get everything, but it feels like a weird religious ritual at this point, and it's clearly not appeasing the blood gods, or whoever its meant to appease.

Ballroom was canceled for the older boys (their instructor had surgery and wasn't quite recovered yet), and that meant that there were seven of us to hustle out of the house instead of five. We decided we'd take the cars to the car wash and give them a thorough debriding. That's always good for an hour and a half, plus it's quite a workout.

We hit Mike's Merchandise, which is sort of a random overstock, discontinued, slightly-damaged things outlet. Also good for another hour and a half. Then we stopped in at John's work for ice cream and to visit with his coworkers. (I don't know if they appreciated that, but they're very kind. It's a good group of kids who work there. And the owner is a joy.) That gave enough time for the boys to head to class and the rest of us to start hauling Jacob to ballet.

Jacob had gotten up early and thrown in a load of wash (which, when you're 13, is pretty danged insightful). Unfortunately, it was a load he neeeeded for ballet that day. And we had to evacuate the house an hour before the wash would be done (which, when you're 13, you just don't think about timing - heck, at forty-something, I still get sideswiped by timing - it happens). We had scrambled a new plan that would allow us to give the treatment the maximum time to dry while allowing us to slip in and grab the clothes from the machine on our way to ballet. It was a brilliant plan.

Except that the water inlet valve on the washing machine died (a hero's death, truly) while we were out of the house. We came home to a washing machine full of water, a flooded basement, and wet clothes for ballet. The machine started spraying water into the hallway when Jacob opened the door.

If you've ever wondered if you can dry clothes on your way somewhere by holding them out the window as you drive, you can. It's a little awkward, particularly as you get into town, but if your drive is long enough it works surprisingly well.

Unfortunately, we were late for his first class. About a mile from the school, he realized that in the upheaval of finding buckets and towels and ringing out the wet clothes, he'd forgotten his bag. Bag has shoes. You can't attend class without your shoes. So we turned around and headed home. He was so sweet about the whole thing, and he really wanted to make his second class (he missed last week because he had a concussion). We decided to see what time it was when we pulled up and make the call from there.

Hey, we can make it! (I may have cried a little. Not from joy. He was joyful. I was tired. It's a 40 minute drive each way.) He grabbed his bag and we headed back out. I tagged Z to pick him up after class, dropped him off, and headed back to the house, where we finished dealing with the washer mess, vacuumed the couch and the rooms, made dinner, and read. *poof* Out cold.

I ordered some Fleabusters RX from Amazon and am considering installing misters filled with it throughout the house at ankle level to keep people from tracking fleas from one room to the next. I ordered a new inlet valve from Amazon and briefly considered checking to see if I could put it on Subscribe and Save. (The earliest we could get it in is May 2. Why is there not overnight shipping available for things like washing machine parts? If you see us at any point over the next week, please remember this is a mechanical failure not a lifestyle choice.)

Today, I've no idea what we're going to do, but I truly hope it doesn't involve driving. Or bugs.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Tuesday, April 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!