Showing posts with label life in the south. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life in the south. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 21

New Schedules, New Days, New Foods

It's only mid-week and already the Littles miss their in-house IT man. 😄 I can fix  you up if you've got a gaping wound, need help deciphering new words, or learning how to cook. If you can't get into the something-admin-something of the something-mod in the something-world of Minecraft, though, you're just going to have to wait for your brother to get home. He seems happy with the new routine, and is stepping into it beautifully.

The rest of us are also getting used to this new schedule. It's weird. The Littles and I are on a solid one-week run of getting to the library (I know, it's a wonder they put up with us), and we may make it through June without any  more late fees if we keep this up. John's missing the Volvo (part is en route!) and would like to be independently mobile again, but he's been fantastic about communicating to make sure everyone's got the wheels they need when they need them to get where they need to be. Jacob seems to be all-in on his schedule, as far as dance goes. Not so much the academics, but it's a process. I hope.

I do think Z really enjoys the carpooling action, though. He hasn't had years of that daily commute time with the kids, so this is a nice treat for him to have some regular one-on-one time with James. No clue what they talk about, but they both seem content.

Our gear is arriving! My puffy jacket arrived! It fits! It's so warm! It's so exciting! I hope it's chilly enough to need it while we're there - that would be the best birthday surprise!

Also, I received my Pili Nuts order today. (Pronounced /pee'-lee/.) Before they'd arrived, I'd have told you that the customer service was really something special. The folks at Hunter-Gatherer Foods are a delight to do business with, and I was quite looking forward to checking out the Pili Nuts. Now that I've opened the bags and tried some of their product (the turmeric and black pepper, the raw cocao, and the coconut oil and salt), I will tell you that if you order some (and you should), get the bigger bags. You won't be sorry! I have found my new go-to trail snack, on-the-go snack, and "emergency" food. This is the kind of thing I'm absolutely asking Santa for at Christmas. I also think I'll need to order more before we leave. These four bags won't make it to departure day! (I am not making anything off this - this is just me, telling you about something I found that's pretty fantastic!)

John and I had our physicals today. We both appear healthy enough to the average physician and have the all-clear to head to Philmont! My pulse was a little high - as soon as the nurse called my name, my heart started doing jello-shots of adrenaline like it was ladies' night, and I could not calm down. Z laughed and said it's probably a wee bit of PTSD. I laughed, too, because it's absurd and he's probably right. But there's nothing I can do about it except roll with it. Maybe one day I can get to the point where a nurse can call me back without my body yelling, "Cops! Hide!" Or maybe it'll just be how I respond from now on. Who knows? I'm new at this, and probably bad at this, but thankful to have the opportunity to try, at any rate.

And on that note, I am going to grab a book and head to bed. We've got storms coming in off the tropical depression. We're safe here (just damp), but you all in the path of the storm, be careful, look out for one another, and check in when you can!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, June 16

No Big News

Or, rather, scads of Big News, just not the news I thought I'd have to share.

Z had applied for a position in Colorado. It would have been a fantastic fit for him - doing GOOD work, doing something he loves (problem solving), and right where he wants to be. We had a lot of optimism about this one. However, someone with years experience doing *that* exact job (which Z, although a quick study, did not have), who is already spooled up and in the game, also applied. That guy was an objectively better fit for the position. Plus, his position where he currently is was about to be eliminated. So we can't begrudge him the award. But I do hope he really, really enjoys it for us.

Meanwhile, we're all trying to suck it up and brace ourselves for another Alabama summer.

*whimper*

With the job possibility on the horizon, pretty much everything beyond graduation was in limbo: Philmont, Circe, summer school, kids' jobs, kids' colleges, the Universal trip, you name it. Every. single. thing. was on hold. The problem with limbo (other than the absolute mind-fraying inability to plan!) is that deadlines and time don't also get put on hold during that time. So, now that the limbo is lifted and decisions are made, we kind of have to hustle.

John and I head to Philmont in about two weeks. Two and a half? Something like that. He's got the calendar. I'm just an adult with a driver's license. I had excellent intentions of hiking daily, but the double-punch of it being Alabama in June (ugh, the weather is so hot and muggy), and the appealing thought of being able to hike in Colorado, instead... well, I do not have the internal fortitude to fight that powerful combination. So I haven't hiked. We've got a 20-miler tomorrow. I guess we'll see how badly this is going to bite me in the rear, then...

I did break out my beloved old backpack (turns out, when I say "old", it's near-vintage old - 27-years!) and gave it a good scrub. It's still mostly waterproof! WOW! Can't for the life of  me figure out how to adjust the shoulder harness on it. It LOOKS like it should be adjustable, but I can't nail it down and I'm terrified of breaking it in the process of trying. Not really thinking about how much things have changed in almost 30 years, I got online to try and find a video for that. (Go ahead and laugh, I'll wait.) Then I emailed the company to ask for assistance. A very kind rep got back with me quite quickly and admitted that... nobody there now was there that long ago or has any idea what system is on it, but he said he'd try to track someone down and get me sorted. I sent some photos of the harness system, and hope someone is willing to come out of retirement to lend an old lady a hand!

That said, when this puppy gets replaced, it'll be with another Lowe Alpine pack. This one has hiked portions of the AT, meandered around the Blue Ridge Mountains, biked with me all over Vermont and NY, trekked down into the Grand Canyon (several times) and into Havasupai. It's gone on untold shorter 4-day treks over the years, as well. Then I passed it along to James, and it survived his Scouting years (which weren't kind... this isn't his Zen area). Now it's back with me, again, if I can get the harness adjusted. I don't even remember what we paid for it, but I remember my 17y.o. self was in awe of owning something that pricey at the time, and it's been worth every penny. I'm a little giddy at the thought of getting one that weighs less...

So that's been it, here. A lot of breath-holding, a lot of tension, and a lot of bustle in the end. It's all good. I can't wait to see what's next!

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

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

Monday, May 22

Waiting Games and Schedules

We're in a holding pattern on the potential news, so I figured while we wait, we could at least hammer out the details on the coming months' schedules. I got about halfway through June. That was not impressive, at all, and there's not much I can do about it. But, hey, that's four weeks farther out than I had planned when I sat down, right?

We've got one week until the family starts arriving from out of town. We had two, but once they could sit down with their schedules, they realized they'd have to bump it up if they wanted to stay longer than just the weekend. We get that (boy, do we get it). If you're going to spend four days on the road, you want your actual visit to be equal to the drive time, if not longer. I'm glad they'll be able to stay long enough to get out and play around in North Alabama. It's a gorgeous area, and it's totally new to them, so that will be fun.

(I don't know if Z has filled them in yet on my plans to get them to help hang drywall and ceiling panels. Yes, that cuts into the "vacation" aspect, but tell me you wouldn't tap your 6'8" brother-in-law to help hoist ceiling panels if he were going to be around when you were working with them? Otherwise, we're stuck with my short self, with my poor depth perception and tiny dinosaur arms. This will be much better!)

Granny will get to see Jacob perform in the end-of-year performances for ballet, and they'll get to see the Space Academy graduation, as well as James' graduation ceremony. It hit me tonight, while thinking how special that will be for them to have her there, just how much we all miss out on in the family when we live so far apart. All of those special, but common, things kids do get lost in the white noise of having to do all your interacting on social media. We haven't seen our nieces and nephews play or perform or do service projects, at all. That's a little bittersweet. We're thankful for the social media that allows us to share photos and see videos, but how much better would it be to hug those sweet babies and kiss their little cheeks?

So the new plan, as given to the Littles during their bedtime liturgy, is that tomorrow is:

School
House prep

The plan for Tuesday is school and house prep.

The plan for the next fortnight is school and house prep.

Man, am I wishing we'd wrapped up school in April! Didn't see that coming.

If it gets too hairy (or harried) by Friday, we may drop school and instead study Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering. That sounds like a fascinating one-week intensive course, yes?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, May 20

Hiking. And Ticks.

In an effort not to embarrass myself in front of the Scouts, I'm going to try to hike daily this last month before we head West. (Have done what I could in preparation so far, but we've had school and ballet, and the woodland creatures Disney told me clean houses have not arrived - so either they lied, or I'm in line to be the evil stepmother. *shrug* Either way, nobody's cleaning the house if I'm on the trail.) I am so excited about this - not just Philmont, but getting out and hiking daily! However, I'm a little queasy about the ticks. This has been a bad year for them, and it's still early days.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this article about a bacteria the Lone Star tick carries that can cause an anaphylactic reaction to meat. Meat! This is apocalypse-level horror, folks. Many people chimed in on the thread when I'd posted it to Facebook, sharing their experiences with just that very thing. Blessedly, there is an OIT doctor in Atlanta who is familiar with it and will help patients monitor their reactions. It appears to abate with time and is not a life-long sentence. Still, I'd rather avoid that, if at all possible.

Of course, the very next day, JakeRabbit found a Lone Star tick on him. We've since found several more - and this, in spite of our high garlic intake and use of spray. GAH! I have a macabre collection of ticks taped to the fridge, now, each one named in honor of its last meal and dated. If we get sick, I'll send the relevant ticks in for testing. (Which reminds me, I may want to get a box or something for those before graduation. I doubt a dangling collection of dead animals makes for pleasant party decor past, say, Halloween. Gross.)

This week, a friend shared more information, this being Notes from the Southern Tier Lyme Support Conference. Please take a moment to read this article. This is good information. It's overwhelming and helpful.

Yesterday, another friend shared a book she's been using for years to help her family deal with Lyme disease. With so few doctors conversant in what Lyme looks like and how to address it, this looks like a fantastic resource to have on hand. Hopefully, the situation will improve with time and advocacy on the part of patients. Until then, you may want to check it out. (I don't recommend staying out of the woods - there's too much to be gained from time spent outside, and a life lived in fear is a life only partially lived. However, ain't a thing wrong with gearing up, learning everything we can, and living a life in knowledge and pro-active engagement. Still trying to pare that down to a snappy saying, but you get the point.)


So that's been fun. I hate ticks. But I do love nature, people, and this crazy life.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, May 18

Prepping the House

Ohhhh, are we back in the thick of it!

This week's plan is spiffing up the trim. (Have I mentioned that when we build a house it will have gunite walls and no trim? Still stand by that claim. Monolith architecture needs to experience a serious rise in popularity! Down with trim!) That said, fresh, lovely trim is very satisfying.

Pre-rehab, put up but never finished.

We got the trim up on the new wall, but never got it finished (stupid cancer). The rest of the house trim is a terrible combination of Learning Curve and Decades Old. Some spots have both! Wee!

So I put together a bin this week: the baseboard rehabilitation bin. It contains everything you'd need to fix up your baseboards.

* Sponge
* Hammer, trim nails, and nail set
* Stud finder
* Wood putty
* Sanding block
* Painter's caulk
* Painter's tape
* Paint brushes
* Paint
* Paper towels

The idea is that if you have half an hour (or 20 minutes, or even five minutes, I don't care), grab the bin, pick a bit of baseboard, and give it some love. If you only get it washed, nails set, and wood putty on before you need to go do something else, that's great. That's a lot farther ahead than we were ten minutes ago! Good job! With everything already together, there's no time spent gathering, which is huge. So far, we've had good success.

Rehabbed and lovely!
We're also cleaning the stairwell to the basement, getting that prepped for drywall and stain this weekend. I'm crazy excited to show you that once it's done. (Right now, I don't even want my family to look - nothing is attractive part way through the de-griming process. One friend described it as satisfying in a vacuum-lines-in-carpet meets pimple popping sort of way. She nailed it. *gag* And yet, very exciting.)

Also this week, we've prepped the front porch for patching the chipped concrete. Once that's done, we'll let it cure and hopefully get it painted before the party.

So, plenty to keep us busy this week!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Monday, May 1

Wedding Attire and Projects

We've got a wedding this month! I'm so excited for the young couple - they're a great team, and I think they're in for being an unbeatable duo.

That said, now I've got to find something to wear. I tried browsing online for wedding fashion 2017 and it seems this year everyone's wearing slips and hankies. I'm... um... well, now I feel old. Also, I'm starting to understand old ladies and pant suits. Although that's not gonna happen this year, it does at least make a little sense. Give me a few more years and I might be buying celery green shoes and earrings to match my linen slacks. But I'm not ready to go there, yet. So, back to browsing for ideas.

The SpaceAppsChallenge sounds like it was really interesting. The competition was stiff, and the boys enjoyed working in a focused, fast-paced environment. Although their team did not win anything in the high school category, they came away from the experience with some good insight tucked into their belts and some good stories. James kind of wants to keep working on their project and get it working. Might be a fun Summer project.

It's time to get serious about the party planning and Summertime plans! WOOHOO! I'm actually rather excited about that.

Next up, beadboard ceilings? Maybe? The oak caterpillar-like debris has finally abated and the green pollen dust is down, so this might just be the year we get that ceiling in! It sounds like there's competition from the back porch, which also would be lovely. If we could magically get both done by graduation... Ohhh, I won't know what to do with myself other than have more company! Oh, my goodness, what will it be like to live in a finished house? *swoon*

Also, I desperately need a better system for time management. It's been cat herding central here, lately, but they're all large jungle cats and harder to herd than mere bobcats or Siamese. I'm flailing terribly. We clearly need more work and more projects - this tail end of the crew has no idea what it's like to DO things like the older kids did at the same age, and honestly, I don't think it's been for the better. So we're going to fix that. That's one nice thing about Life - if what you're doing isn't working, do something different. Figuring out what to do differently can be a bit of a challenge, but you can try one thing and if that doesn't work, try something else. (It sounds significantly less exhausting in print than it is in real life, I realize that. Still, it's exciting to know we aren't without options.)

And, that's about all I've got this lovely Monday morning. But it's good.

Be encouraged!

~ 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

Saturday, April 22

Always With The Tone of Surprise

I am so in love with this house right now.

I am in love with it every time we do a deep clean and a general decluttering.

And I am caught completely off guard every time.

This really is the perfect home for a small family with a few big toys and a ton of books. It's really working hard to hold a medium-sized family with a billion divergent interests and a ton of books. It pulls it off, but with time the debris accumulates higher and higher, eventually eradicating the very things we love about it (the open spaces, the natural light, the outside room to roam). Twice a year, we double down on knocking it back, and twice a year I am in awe of what a truly adorable little place this is.

I kind of hope the kids will one day pool their resources and get me a cleaning service for a year as a Christmas or birthday gift. Actually, now that I think of it, I'm totally putting that in my Amazon wish list. Of course, that'll probably be when they decide to get the "Come Back With A Warrant" mat, which wouldn't be nearly as funny when I'm 80 and no longer homeschooling... Or maybe it would? Hmm.

We all have terrible Spring Fever right now. This is normally when we'd dial back the academics and go play before it gets hot, but they all have outside classes this Spring, and those run on a traditional school schedule... so we're stuck, and getting twitchy. We want to go somewhere and do something! The South is a gorgeous place in the Spring. There's something to love about every place, and at least one season to love about it. Spring and Fall here are pretty fantastic.

And now, I must awaken the Kraken and make them air out their lairs. The last step in the process! (Also, notably, one of my favorites! I love a freshly aired lair!)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, April 21

Just Like Snow White

Except I'm not cleaning. Or singing.

Jase picked these. No clue what they are, but he had fun putting them in.
But the doors are open, the birds are singing, and it is gorgeous! I could probably whip up some dancing. We're smack in one of my favorite parts of the year - where the days aren't terribly hot, the mornings are still cool and breezy, and the mosquitoes don't come out this early yet.

That cat, however, is not my favorite right now. Several of our screens bear the mark of his wrath (or perhaps general displeasure) and I'm pretty sure the bugs will find those very spots every time we try to open the windows this year.

The Littles (still thinking up a good moniker for them - they've requested something else) and I went to the market yesterday and picked out some plants for the earth boxes. We didn't go in with a plan other than Find Something That Makes You Smile. They did.

Hibiscus! Em was absolutely smitten with the blooms, so we got one that has a ton of buds. I'm guessing it won't be able to live in this box long-term, but it'll be lovely here in the meantime. (We're getting mulch. It's a work in progress.)

Zorak is home today, which means the time-honored plan of Not Doing School. Of course, it's also going to be a day that somewhat violates the spirit of that plan -- they're not going to spend the day "hanging out with Dad", but rather, "working outside with Dad". All time well spent, though, so there is that, right? Plus, they get to sleep in. Nobody really complains. Much.

May is coming! None of us is looking forward to the heat, but the kids are starting to get antsy - finals week at the college is the first week of May, the water park opens the end of May, anatomy class ends in May, kayak weather... more time for hiking... so many good things are coming. They're ready.

I just need to get through this weekend and present a hospitable venue for the cookout. Then I can relax and look forward to the good things, too. If I lose focus between now and Sunday, though, it's likely to turn into a, "Hey, can you help us lug this wood to the bonfire and get the clothes off the line?" party. That wouldn't be fun for anyone.

I hear rustling and ambling. I've camped out near the watering hole (coffee pot) so I'll be sure to catch people as they awake. Time to get my Snow White on and whip this place into inviting shape! (Although, yes, I realize the visual is more reminiscent of Marlon Perkins than Snow White. That's probably a more accurate visualization all the way around, but I don't want to think up a new intro.)

This needs something else, but we're waiting for inspiration. Native, volunteer ferns, though. They look almost intentional!
 Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Thursday, April 20

More Spring Cleaning, Outdoors

Y'all, take your garlic. It is tick season, and it is yard work and hiking season. (OK, it's always tick season, but that doesn't matter so much when it's too cold and you're inside. But NOW, it's nice out. You want to get out and enjoy it, but you don't want ticks. Nobody wants ticks. Take your garlic.)

Yesterday, it didn't rain so we mowed and weedwhacked and weeded and mulched. (And this morning I realized I haven't been taking my garlic. See? Learn from my mistakes, folks.) This place is really cute when it's tidy! Oh, my gosh!

We cleared off the balcony and cleaned out the earth boxes. Jase asked if we could keep the ferns that have sprouted in one of them... I tried not to be too discomfited by the idea that it took actual airborne spores floating up that way for them to grow there (I could be a real mess if I thought too much about what's in the air most of the time). The ferns are pretty, though, so why not? We're likely not gardening this year, so we'll at least go get some lovely plants for the earth boxes on the balcony and make it look like we decorate once in a while.

I think only two of my Pieris Mountain Snows died! That's so exciting! One died early on in the fall because people kept dropping shovels, buckets, and bicycles on it. Understandable that it didn't survive. But then the other five just up and DIED over the spring. I was crushed. Three cheers for procrastination, though! (Hip, hip, hurrah!) I never got around to pulling them up and taking them to Nick (my plant guy) to find out what happened, and this week four of them greened back up and revived like you wouldn't believe. It's so exciting! I'm going to put a big bushy plant where people drop things - maybe they'll stop, then. (If that doesn't work, I'll try a pokey, mean plant. And if that doesn't work, I'm going to have to put down sand and pavers and just consider it a landing pad - but it's right beside the front steps, so I'll be honest, I don't wanna.)

We really do need to make a new roof happen this year. Eek. That much became painfully obvious once we got the rest of the yard and structures tidied up. (I'm kidding. We knew it was bad, but now it actually looks as bad as it is.) I wonder if the boys will enjoy roofing? Honestly, I do. Not so much the edges, which are terrifying, but it's a very satisfying thing to have a clean, fresh roof, with good underlayment and straight lines.

Our book club finished The Screwtape Letters yesterday. Finally. It's an incredible book, but this was a rough few months for the club -- with illnesses, travel, work schedules, and the insanity of my unpaid long haul gig (how I'm thinking of Jacob's ballet schedule, now), we had very few weeks where everyone could make it. We've picked the next book - The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, Since we have such an ecumenical group, I am really excited about some of the discussions we'll have over this. Do you have people in your life you can disagree with and argue with over a cup of tea? I hope so! It's a beautiful thing!

Z's on a weird one-day jaunt for work. He left before the sun was up, and he'll be back tonight. I want to remember to have dinner ready when he gets home. Of course, that's ten hours from now... should probably set a reminder. What's your favorite Welcome Home meal? Do you have one?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Saturday, April 15

Headway!

So, we got the doors in and all was well. Then the blinds just conked out in one of the doors. We followed the instructions on how to fix them if they break, but evidently something... else broke. It didn't work. Today, Z called Jeld-Wen to find out what our options are, and they'll be sending someone out to replace the dorked up bit, themselves. Mad love for Jeld-Wen right now, I've gotta say. (Because if they'd said, "Sure, just bring the whole unit back and we'll replace it," I might have cried, cussed, and curled up in a ball. Bless them for not doing that.)

Meanwhile, the boys and I painted the background for the basement wall.


Then, this afternoon, the kids decorated it up. I haven't been down this evening, but just before I headed up to get ready for church, it was looking pretty fun.


We're definitely going to have to raise the bar on the rest of the decor so the whole place doesn't look like a back alley in the midst of a gang war. (The Russian is a nice touch, though. Heh.) Aaannndd, do something about that couch. The wall isn't doing it any favors. So, projects lined up. That'll give us something to do this summer.

All in all, it's been a fun project. The kids all joined in with their own ideas and experiments. Z and I even put a few tidbits on there. They'll enjoy it for a while, and when they're done (or when we need to sell the house), a layer of Kilz and it's a fresh slate.

Tonight, we attended Good Friday service. The service focused on praying through the stations of the cross. I'm thankful for waterproof mascara, humbled by how little I know, and encouraged by how much there is to learn. Also? My youngest children have no concept of how to be still. Just still. Even the shushing brought noise in reply. What on earth? It was like worshiping between Heckle and Jeckle. So. We've gotta work on that. The congregation is great, and nobody shot us the hairy eyeball or anything, but it's just not good for your spirit if you can't hush up and just contemplate once in a while!

This is the last weekend to prep the house before the cookout for the models and photographers next week. I'm a little nervous, wondering what we were thinking - there's no way this place is going to be Lovely by then - but it is Better, and that's a good thing. Fortunately, the bulk of hospitality is creating a space where guests feel welcome and at ease. I think we don't stink at that, at least. So although, as I told a friend this morning, we aren't good at Martha Stewart style hospitality, we'll play to our strengths and feed them well.

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

Sunday, March 19

A New Project!

Guys. We've been so busy with raising kids and driving to every corner of three counties lately that we haven't made much headway on the house. Other than the wall we built two years ago, what discernible headway we have made has been in the more mundane realm of picking shoes up from under the coffee table in the living room and shaking off the table cloth in the dining room. Occasionally, we get wild and break out the paper shredder to beat back the drastic piles of college junk mail.

Well, I volunteered the property for a party in April, and that, combined with the wonderful weather, has lit a fire under all of us! Landscaping! Caulking! Debris eradication! Allofit! This past week, Z and I have been researching doors for the basement. (They were ghetto when they were installed 46 years ago. Time, and the elements, have not improved their appearance or function one bit.) We thought it would take a couple of paydays to pull that one off, but really, it needs to happen soon. (We suspect, although we have no reason to think this, that having decent doors on the walk-out will spur us to make the rest of the basement nice. It seems a sound perspective. We may, however, just end up broke, hanging out in a junky basement, staring at the nice doors.)

Yesterday, we got up early to visit Gobble-Fite, a local materials supply - they were great to work with during the bulk of the renovations, and they deliver. Considering the space is 112" wide, delivery options are appealing. Unfortunately, we forgot they aren't open on Saturdays. We brainstormed a few other places we could visit so the day wouldn't be a total wash. (Also, neither of us wanted to work on the landscaping, so we were motivated to get out!)

We stopped at our favorite hardware store and met with one of the guys there. The door options weren't great, but he did have some good ideas. Also, they have the beadboard that I want for the living room ceiling. We made notes and moved on. We checked another couple of places and then realized basement doors would likely have to be ordered and we're going to have to do some framing to alter the rough opening because part of the unique joy of this place is that so many elements are not standard. Or square. So, that's cool. But what shall we do this weekend?

Well, as luck would have it, we ended up at Lowe's. Lowe's has the front entry door I've had my eye on for the last five years. It's lovely, it's solid, and it's usually in stock. What's not to love? They had it in stock today. Oh, yeah...


This may not be exciting to everyone, but for me it is right up there with the day after we pulled the carpet out and were able to get all the way through the foyer before the weird Abandoned Shack smell hit us. I have hated our current front door for years (11.5 years, to be exact). It was oddly stained and never sealed, so the wood was rough and blotchy and hard to clean. The panels had split over the years, and you could see daylight through the door in places where you shouldn't have been able to see through. (Seriously, the paper boy from Better Off Dead could totally have kicked in this door.) The glass was hard to clean and there wasn't enough of it.

But this beauty? She's solid! She's sealed! She'll let light into the foyer! I'M SO EXCITED!!!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, March 1

It's Go Time!

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


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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy