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

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.

Wee!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged! And take notes!

~ Dy

Friday, 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!

~Dy


Thursday, April 13

The Push

Well, "the push" turned out to be more driving. Blergh. But all the kids' teeth are now up to snuff, and John's had a consult with a new oral surgeon. I'm not entirely sure how it's Thursday again, but there you have it.

We did get the wall cleaned and rinsed. The kids have decided to paint the load panel, too, since it's proud of the wall and incredibly ugly. Seems sane.

We've peeled another large swath off the basement couch. Our first "real" -- as in, new, not off the classifieds, only ours, bought with cash and straight from the store -- sofa was an Ashley sleeper sofa that we loved and loved... for about two years, until the cushions gave up, the upholstery started cracking and peeling and we realized Ashley doesn't count that as a defect in materials or workmanship. Actually, they seem to think of it as a perk. I don't know. Weird business model, but whatever. We bought a replacement that we love off Craigslist and demoted the poorly made Ashley to the basement. But it was kind of gross, and we weren't sure what to do with a couch that wasn't appealing, and wasn't in particularly "good" shape, but wasn't legitimately trash, either. We are loathe to throw away things that still have utility (which explains so much, really)... In a fit of creative implosion, I decided that we would just peel the rest of the material off and paint it! (Thanks, Pinterest!) That was two years ago. Turns out, it takes a lot of focus and determination to peel bonded fabric completely off a 6' couch... The kids pick at it while they're playing video games. Every once in a while, I'd muster up the umpf to go down there and just work on the couch, but the basement heebed me out and I couldn't stay down there too long without succumbing to the overwhelming urge to toss everything out and set it on fire.

Anyway, it's almost to the point that we can paint it. Probably a summer project. If it doesn't work, then we'll buy a slipcover for it. But if it does work? We'll have a weatherproof party couch! How cool is that? So many of my ideas could be incredibly fun and delightful finished projects, or they could be four cinder blocks away from the neighbors telling their children not to go over onto that property. I never really know until we've tried. But I have to try.

Speaking of neighbors, we have new ones. They've been busy trimming trees and clearing the property of debris. The kids heard someone in the bushes, whistling to the birds. And one of them waved back as we both pulled out of our drives the other morning. So, I'm hopeful they'll be good neighbors and will think of us as good neighbors. We need to make something and go welcome them.

We're in a bit of a lull with the kids' things. Jacob is back to Just Ballet Class, no rehearsals, and we're all appreciative of getting three extra days back during the week. John's waiting on the ACT scores to be released, but we've tweaked the plan for the next test in the meantime (no more prep, lots more reading, more books, more words, and, uh, keep plugging away at the math). James is in a holding pattern on future plans and trying to figure out how to get enough sleep without just sleeping from midnight to noon. (It's tricky. I get it.) And the Littles - they are great. They're biking and making movies, crafting and making food, all with a nonstop background chatter in voice for characters they've made up. We don't get it, but we love it.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, April 10

Oh, my goodness! Memories

We worked in the basement a bit today. We have worked in that basement so many times over the years. We've never gotten it "done". It's a definite If You Give a Mouse a Cookie situation. "Well, if we're going to do this, we'll need to do these things. And if we're going to do these things, we really need to do that Big Thing." Next thing you know, we've cornered ourselves and can't get anything done down there, so we stack it up and go back upstairs. This time, however, we have doors!

Yeah, I know. Doors. Woohoo? Yes, Woo. hoo. Seriously huge progress, and I'm going to drive this donkey cart into the ground now that we have some momentum. Today, we got the industrial junk relegated to a corner that's not right smack as you walk in, and what do you know, it made a huge difference. (Yes, this should have been obvious. We suspected, but it wouldn't have mattered before, so we didn't try it out.) Then we flipped the hanging out area (gaming area? living area?) whatever, we moved the couch and the tv over by the Real Doors. So now, it has a vaguely Legitimate Living Space feel to it. As long as you don't look at the walls, or the rafters, or the floors. But if you keep your eyes firmly between 2' and 5' from the floor, it looks nice down there.

Actually, you can look at the rafters - we vacuumed them this afternoon, and they, too, look nice. That floor, though, is just going to be ugly until next year.

Then we realized the camping shelf, which, for the last ten years, has been THE tidy focal point of the basement, looked horribly shifty and ugly. I could have wept for joy! The pretty bit looks ugly, now! We're making tangible progress! So we moved it, too. Now the industrial bits are locked into a corner by makeshift walls of storage, and there is a clearly defined livable space emerging around it. I can live with that.

We picked up and cleared out so much that we found James' missing Mahabis sole! 😂 (It fell off while he was walking around down there about a month and a half ago. We have looked and looked for that thing and had both given up on ever finding it.) I think he is now certain that ALL the work was worth it, even if we never finished the basement. Happy kid. Maybe his lost tube of thermal paste will show up in the next round of shifting?

Back when we'd painted some of the walls and built the closets down there, we'd painted all the wall we could get to. As of today, there's double the amount of wall now visible, and it needs painting. When we moved a couple of shelves, we found a little spot on the wall where John's been testing spray paint for his projects over the years. It's actually kind of pretty. The more we walked around it, the more it grew on us. Finally, John asked if we could just do that, intentionally, to the wall behind the sofa. Yeah, why not? It won't preclude us from hanging drywall someday, but in the meantime, they'll have a space that's all theirs. That's on tomorrow's docket, and I'm stoked.

I am so close to being able to use the weight machine again! I think after tomorrow's push, it'll be safe to use without fear of knocking over paper piles or cracking someone in the head while they attempt to read in the chair.

We'll devote the remainder of this week to fixing that up as much as possible off this momentum. Then this coming weekend we'll see what we can do about the landscaping. Once things start to green up down here, it's on. You've got to stay ahead of it, and I just know all my local friends are going to shake their heads and point out that we're already behind.

But in the meantime, Be Encouraged!

~ Dy


Friday, April 7

It's Showtime!

Months of preparation, daily rehearsals, so much sweat in one room... And now, it' time!

Huntsville Ballet Company is presenting its Spring Repertory Mix performance this weekend. They will have special guests from Ballet Chicago performing George Balanchine's Stars and Stripes Pas de Deux, as well as Huntsville Ballet Company's performance of Billy the Kid, and a special presentation - for the first time in Huntsville - of Balanchine's choreography of Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux.



I'm going for one of the Gunslingers in Billy the Kid, but he assures me that the rest of the performance is going to be OMAZING and totally worth it. (Picture his eyes going wide, there.) From what I've seen in rehearsals, he's not wrong.

If you're in North Alabama this weekend, and are looking for something delightful to do, come with us! You can get more information and tickets here.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Thursday, April 6

*poof* It's Thursday

I got a weekly map drawn, but didn't get around to re-configuring anything. That's crazy, and I can't even blame the Instant Gratification Monkey. Perhaps later... maybe.

Adventure Thursday is out today. We've got storms and rain and scary winds. It makes more sense to stay home and watch the tips of the pine trees sway. Philosophically, I love to see them - they are comforting and remind me that we must bend in the storms so we don't break. Pragmatically, I am always thankful I'm not a tree stand hunter (or a ship's boy in the 18th Century British Navy, stuck in the crow's nest). Yes, that's a bit specific, but it makes my knees hurt just thinking about being up there when they're swaying back and forth. So, all in all, much to be thankful for as we watch the trees do their thing.

Jacob's first on stage experience is coming up this weekend. Rehearsals are running full tilt, even among the storms. I appreciate the dedication of the Company, and also that the school itself will cancel classes when the weather's nasty. It did crack me up, though, to get the alert that classes were canceled but rehearsals were still on. The work they're putting in shows, though, and they look amazing. I can't wait to see the performance! I also look forward to having the days between classes back, but that's the mother-chauffeur-chef-and-chief-bottle-washer in me talking.

All in all, things are going well, here. I've lost my train of thought. Jase, of course, got up and started talking a million miles a minute as soon as I started typing. Want to hear about a trap door in Minecraft? I've got a 9yo who will tell you all about it! You don't even have to ask.

So it's taken me an hour to write this, because it's important to stop and listen. It's also important to be still and stop talking occasionally. (I remember my mother sighing and smiling weakly as I bounded down the stairs at five in the morning to sit with her at the table and have coffee - it never dawned on me that she got up that early to have some time to herself. She never said a word. I wish she would have, though.) We're working on balance, on mutual respect for space and time. But I know also that sometimes you just wake up with all the words stored up in your head and have to get them out to make room for your day.

I'll write again when they're in bed and I can make room in my own head.

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Wednesday, March 29

The Search for Senior Photos

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

*sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, it wasn't an inspiring experience.

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, March 24

Well, then.

My week, in pictures. (I thought I had more pictures. This has not been a great week, though, and it makes total sense that I didn't take a lot of pictures of the not-great bits. So, well, there you have it.)

It started out really well...


And then, it all went horribly wrong...


And then, out of nowhere...


As of right now, we have a temporary set up in place until we can get that line fixed. Love that the propane company delivered 100 gallons to the tank before testing the system for a leak, even though it was clear that something was broken  - and then they had to lock it until the leak is fixed (which I totally understand locking it -- but I do hope they, likewise, understand the laughter that ensued when they hit me with the invoice for the gas in the tank that they've locked... because sometimes life is just like that).

We do spend a lot of time just sitting and watching the light through the glass in the new door. I bet it'll look even better once the trim is up and the stickers are off the door, too!

And our Easter Baby is nine. Wow. THE baby. Is... not so much a baby. And I'm okay with that, except when the realization that he's halfway grown hits. Then I'm not. Parenting is weird. But he felt loved and appreciated and welcome on his special day (hopefully he feels that way every day - hopefully, we can all feel that way more often than not), and he's happy to be nine.

Be encouraged!

~Dy

Tuesday, March 14

From 0 to 60 in 3 years!

Thankfully, we are not sports cars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, March 12

A Sleepy Day of Worship

We awoke this morning, bright and early. Oh, so, early. Fortunately, it's been so cloudy and overcast this winter that we've stopped relying on how light it is outside to gauge the time. We just had to believe the clocks when they told us it was 6:30 *yawn*...

Somehow, Em and I both got slated to serve in this morning's worship service. I maintain that it was part brilliance (as we might not have made it with the time change), and part evil plan (as helpers have to show up half an hour earlier to get squared away) that they put two of us in on this Sunday. But we made it. On time, even. And nobody fell asleep in their seat. The drive up and the drive back? We lost several, there. But we held our own in the pews.

Yesterday, we had a Philmont training hike, so John and I were out the door at 6 in the morning. The high was something like 39 degrees, and it rained on us nonstop after the first mile. It was a really great opportunity to identify weak points in our gear and training. My gear is basically composed of weak points held together by gravity. My training is essentially at the whim of gravity. But it's good to know.

The Vibram Five Fingers, however, held up admirably, and today, my feet are about the only part of me that is not sore and tight. No blisters, either, in spite of doing the entire 12 miles in wet feet. The thighs, I can blame on the hills we did. (So many hills!) The back and shoulders on not having adjusted the internal frame of my pack before I loaded it up (d'oh!) Also, 400mg magnesium is not near enough to stave off DOMS. See? We learned a lot! Never stop learning!

I'm getting a handle on what food to take for the trail. Blessedly, pre-cooked bacon is shelf stable and fairly light. Guess what I'm eating on the trail? Oh, yeah! The Oberto original jerky trail mix is also nice, although it won't make a full meal substitute. The carbs are a little high for regular consumption (within the context of nutritional ketosis). I pitched the idea today to Z of making jerky from an entire roast before we head out. We'll do a practice roast, first. I'm thinking if we salt it and dry it properly, we can vacuum seal it and it should hold up OK. Will keep you updated on how that goes.

After the hike, John and I split and headed to a bonfire for their ballroom dance class. That was hosted by a family that just started this year, and it was a delightful opportunity for the kids to visit and get to know each other outside the formal setting of the dance floor. They had a blast. I had a blast, too. We got in a lot later than we'd anticipated, but it was worth it. Even at 6:30 this morning.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, March 8

Kentucky is Beautiful and Life is Weird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Saturday, March 4

Today is the Finale

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

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

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



Enjoy your circus today. Love on those monkeys!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Friday, March 3

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

One good thing has come of the boys' foray into the fashion industry: I get to model (heh) how to step outside your comfort zone and still function.

This has been so good for me. Not because it's oodles of fun to stand in a crowd of 5'10" size zeroes and a dozen photographers. Not because I will ever have any clue about fashion or how it works. But because it's easy to just accept that the entirety of parenting is being shoved repeatedly out of your comfort zone and call it good. (As soon as you figure out how to not stress about toddlers, the game changes and you're in the preschool years. Shortly after you get the hang of that, here comes 6. And then pre-adolescence. Then, God help us, 13. It will keep you on your toes, for sure.) It's easy to stop trying things that make you uncomfortable because you know in the blink of an eye you're going to be discussing genitalia and executive function on a damn-near daily basis, so why go looking for trouble?

Because it stretches us. It lengthens us. It strengthens us. Because if yoga is good for your body, then this is yoga for your mind. For your spirit. For your outlook.

Some of what I've learned, I already knew and just needed to be reminded of: those lovely girls are just girls - they have the capacity to be kind, to be catty, to be anxious, and to be bold. You know, just like everyone else. Those photographers? They just love what they do. They see beauty in everything - every nook and cranny, every twinkling eye and every somber moment.

Some of what I've learned is new: what happens behind the scenes, how all this *flaps hands wildly* works, what goes into it, what makes a show (or a photo shoot, or a look book) happen. I've learned what the process looks like, and how it's different for each person involved (going back to that whole people-are-people thing, above). It's been fascinating. And exhausting. And for my ENTJ brain, a little bit frustrating. I'm not going to lie. But overall, it's been good.

Mostly, though, I appreciate being able to show the boys, first hand, how one goes about wading into a world that is absolutely not your world, and how the same things we've taught them about our world apply.

Be kind.
Be honest.
Look people in the eye.
Smile.
Offer to help.
Appreciate what others do.
Offer to do what you can, and be willing to learn new things.
Wear it like you meant it.*

Plus, my posture's improving. 😄 So I guess even standing in a room of 5'10" size zeroes is beneficial in and of itself.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

* OK, that last one comes from the many, many times we've gotten to wherever we're going only to discover one of us was wearing mis-matched socks, or shoes, or the wrong pants. Just hold your head up and wear it like you meant it. That works on the runway, too.

Wednesday, March 1

It's Go Time!

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


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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, February 24

Understanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy