Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

Sunday, July 1

Missing One

Jacob is off at his summer intensive, and the house is shockingly quiet. (On a tangentially related note, do you know of any robust earbuds that can survive a 14yo boy? I'm resigned at this point to replacing them every six months, but I hate the waste.)

In some ways, not much is different. We still chat about news over coffee in the mornings (yay for technology!) and he still sends me photos of cool things he finds while he's out and about. I love that part.

But he's gone. I miss seeing him spinning in the kitchen. I miss hearing his laughter when he reads something funny. I miss hanging out in the kitchen with him while we cook. I miss hearing him talk about the book he's reading or the upcoming Falcon Heavy launch. I know that's part and parcel of raising children to be autonomous, productive adults. But I sure do miss him when he's off being active.

This is the second week. It's both flying by and inching along. Time is so weird. I'll be gone when he wraps it up, and Z will get to see the performance at the end of the session. He'll enjoy that, since he missed the school sketches in May.

I do hope, though, that Jacob's up for a marathon of something ridiculous with snacks and root beer floats and hanging out in the kitchen in July.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, June 27

Summer!

It's Summertime! It's warm! It's sunny! It's been three months since I've written!

We closed on the Forever Home in April and it's now got just the family it needed. I am eight months into living 11 minutes from absolutely everything and still absolutely loving it! Like, you would not believe how wonderful it is for me. Oh, gosh. Yes!

James ended up staying at the house most nights near the end of the spring semester. Not having internet at the RV made getting school work done a little challenging, and as much as he loved the study hall in the honors building, it didn't have food late at night. So he'd come schlepping in around dinner time, eat, study, eat, play video games, eat, talk a bit, then crash on the couch. The boys took to referring to him as "The Hobo", although I'm fairly certain it was a lovingly bestowed nickname. There was a lot of laughter and chattering among them in the kitchen. Bonding over memes and such, I think. I don't know. I just sat here and enjoyed the happy noises.

The end of the semester came and he moved back in for the summer. Him and his stuff. You know how some people are into rescue animals and they are forever bringing home abandoned puppies, kittens, and armadillos? Well, James is into rescuing hardware. "But they were just going to throw them away! I couldn't just leave them there!" It's tech-based dumpster diving. And now my living room is filled with computers, computer parts, and cables. So many cables. I have no idea how he's going to fit back in the RV come fall.

We got John graduated from high school and he's in college full time over the summer, now. He'll have to transfer to a school in New Mexico to finish it, but both schools are accredited and bonafide, so the transition should be fairly smooth. Or not. We're still learning to roll with unexpected changes.

It's very, very weird having college students. I don't feel that old. They vacillate between seeming plenty old and really not possibly old enough. It's just a weird stage, but so far it's fascinating and fun, if confusing and exhausting. Kind of like life, in general, right?

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Sunday, March 11

Let's Dance!

So, summer intensive auditions are over. Hallelujah! And *whew*.

Jacob auditioned his little heart out this season. He learned a lot. He was both encouraged and discouraged by the whole process. In the end, though, it's such good experience. There is growth in the striving. (This is something we manage to remember about 70% of the time. Sometimes we just weeny out and complain about it being haaaaarrrrrddd. But we're getting better.) He gave it his best, he learned from each audition. And how he grew. Wow!

At the end of auditions, he was accepted at the Washington Ballet and at Nashville Ballet. So, that was exciting!

And expensive. Gosh. I hadn't budgeted past February yet, so those conversations with Z were fun. (He's so patient with me. But it's funny how his boundless optimism craps out right when I dig deep enough to find mine. LOL. We're a good team, as we don't both give up at the same time.) Also, I need to be budgeting now for next year. It's like merchandising and fashion - gotta be planning for next year's line now. And here I was, all excited to be a month ahead on the car insurance. Ah, well. We'll get there.

Anyway, I'm still mentally trying to figure out how to make both DC and Nashville happen (because I want to be Dance Santa! And Santa Mom! And make all the good things happen!), but Jacob decided that it would probably be better to attend just one, and to attend for the longest session he can, rather than to do two much shorter sessions in different places. He figured that would be a way to really push himself, get the most out of the program, work more closely with the instructors, and come out the other end a significantly better dancer than he went in. For a 14 year-old boy, that's pretty insightful. It gives me hope.

So, this Summer, Jacob will be spending five weeks in Nashville, studying under some fabulous teachers, stretching his little ligaments and pushing his work ethic to its limit, and he couldn't be happier! (Well, he could, but we'd have to win the lottery, and we don't play the lottery, so this is about the upper edge of happy for this summer. It's still a pretty high happy!)

In the meantime, they're working on Cinderella, getting ready for Panoply in the Park, and looking forward to Spring break! I get tired just putting his schedule in my planner. It's a good thing he loves it.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, March 10

That's one way to get through Lent...

I blinked. And now it's March. But SO much has been happening!

Also, not remotely related, but sort of indicative of my response to things lately, I sat down to write and my foot hit something under the table. I poked it, and it rolled around. "Oh, there's a ball under the table." Then I realized it didn't feel like any ball we have. What was that? Of course, I tried to figure it out with my foot instead of just looking. Couldn't figure it out. It rolled, but not like a normal ball. It was hard, too, not squishy. Finally, I looked. It was an avocado. I have an avocado under my table. Why? How does this even happen? Well, whatever. The upside is that I now have an avocado!

Anyway, life is beginning to resolve a bit. I can see one of the finish lines of the marathon through my unfocused eyes and flailing arms. The cheering from the support crew, though, is fabulous! There is no way I could have kept my sanity if it weren't for the grace of God in giving us such a team.

Z came out for a visit. He brought the car Aunt B had given to us, and we sold the Volvo (we all sang joyously, except Z, who mourned a bit and then took a photo of the Volvo and The Guy Who Bought It - he's glad it's going to a good home). James now has safe, reliable transportation, and he is very thankful. I am very thankful. John, who usually has to help mechanic, is very thankful. There's just general joy and celebration all around.

The C Family has a contract on their house! That means we have a contract on OUR house! The Forever Home is going to go to a beautiful family that will love it. It will have children who will wander in the woods, play in the creek, have campfires in the upper meadow. Also, the lady of the family is a much better home decorator than I am, so the Forever Home will likely be lovelier than it's ever been!

The boys are surviving school. I guess the chemistry class is brutal. And the keeping track of things. And remembering to eat. It's hard to watch the young struggle with finding their groove. I don't remember it being as hard as it looks, but thinking back on some of my mother's comments, I'm guessing it was probably worse for her. At least my kids have sense and direction. My poor mother.

So, yeah, halfway through Lent. It hasn't been a somber Lenten season for us, but it has been a mindful one.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, February 5

On Reaching Out

The kids and I talked a lot yesterday about rebuilding our thing, our community. The kids miss it. I miss it. One of the things that's prevented us recently is that we lost a bit of our mojo during the cancer (which, fair enough, it'll knock anyone off their stride for a bit), and then once that was over ... well, we just didn't really get back to it. Inertia is a bear.

Then we moved.

Then Z moved.

Then Nutcracker. Then Christmas. Then Winter. Argh.

And now, here we are.

I think part of our problem is that we don't have the processes down, here, yet. In our old house, we could throw together a cookout for 40 guests with as little as two hours' notice. Easy. In this house, we can't hardly cobble together dinner for the five of us, even with a full day's head start. So that's a little tricky. I suspect we simply have to flail our way through a few gatherings in order to force start the new processes. We'll include apology gifts and flowers for those who get stuck being our first few guests, or something like that. But after that, it should come more naturally.

So the plan we came up with was this: find someone to invite to Sunday dinner and invite them.

What criteria you use doesn't matter. It can be someone you already know and like. It can be someone you'd like to get to know better. It can be someone who has done you a kindness that you'd like to reciprocate. It can be someone who just looks like they'd appreciate being looped in and connected. It can be someone you don't know at all, but you still feel compelled to invite them. It can be someone from work, school, church, a club or class, wherever. There are very few actual limitations on who it can be. Really. Your motivations are your own, and I trust you enough to be good with whatever the Spirit uses to move you. Run with it.

So, we'll see how that goes. It's going to require me to have my shizzle together quite a bit more of a Saturday afternoon, but that's probably something I should keep together as a general rule, anyway, right?

I'd LOVE to hear from you. What motivates you to reach out to someone? And then, how do you do it? Also, how do you keep your shizzle together?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 28

Go For It

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

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

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

"Where does Jacob want to go?"

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

"It depends on the child."

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

"It depends on what he wants."

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

"It really depends on the program."

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

"It'll really depend on the instructor."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home to pack, and they were off.

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, January 15

Birthday Ideas

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

Be encouraged!
~ Dy










Wednesday, January 3

The Nutcracker

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

Be encouraged!

Dy


Thursday, July 27

The Fall School Plan, 2017-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

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

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, May 19

Little Things

There are so many Little Things that make up day-to-day life, things we take for granted and assume a general knowledge about. Parenthood has a way of highlighting some of the more humorous (the things you never thought you'd have to spell out), or the more mortifying (love that parroting stage...), and each stage of parenting covers new aspects of those Little Things.

Today, we were talking about how the Graduation Party is really the first time your student is an adult at a party - he's the host, the greeter, has responsibilities of making sure to do the rounds and thank each guest for attending.

The kids have always been great about party prep and being gracious -- offering tea and refills, clearing places at the table, pitching in on the pre-party cleaning and set up. I hadn't given any thought to the fact that this would be his first time being "on" at a party. Usually once the guests arrive, the kids splinter off to go play Werewolf or The Resistance, into the meadow for airsoft, or up to the fire ring for a campfire. They do their thing. The kids are good hosts to other kids, but how does it look different for a young person to be a good host to other adults?

In a lot of ways, it's no different - you greet everyone, offer drinks, show them the food. If they're new, show them the Good Bathroom and give them a heads up about snakes by the creek (because both are just generally appreciated). But in some ways, it's very different. I realized we hadn't necessarily articulated the difference, but I'd like to.

In keeping with our mantra to "set them up to succeed," it makes sense to give a fledgling a heads up about some of the new bits, or more nuanced aspects of being the host. (This is brainstorming at its finest, here, so please feel free to add any you can think of, too!)

* Be on hand to greet people as they arrive and take an active role in getting them introduced.

* Spend intentional time visiting with each of the guests, more than just your buddies or peers.

* Accept help - if you're still setting something up, or finishing something in the kitchen when guests arrive, and they ask how they can help, give them something to do. They'll enjoy being able to participate, you'll have company while you work, and everything will be done sooner so you can all enjoy kicking back and visiting.

* Keep an eye out for guests who may feel uncomfortable, or who may not know others at the party. Introduce them around, bring up things they have in common with other guests as a topic of discussion to help them find their groove.

* Keep an eye on the food and drink - keep it full. There's something about abundance that creates a willingness to partake. People are far less likely to take some salad, or a beverage, if there's only a bit in the bowl or cooler. Make it easy for people to enjoy themselves by maintaining a sense that there is plenty and they are welcome to it.

* As guests leave, you really need to get up and see them off, personally. A bit more than a wave good-bye from your game of cards that children can pull off.

These are all pretty universally applicable to any hosted event. For the Grad, there's the added element of graciously receiving gifts and then remembering to mark down who gave you what so that your thank you notes are personal and clear.

And, of course, the actual writing of thank you notes.

...the mailing of thank you notes.

I need to buy stamps.

So, what are some of your favorite tips for young men and women as they make the transition from "kid" to "host"?

Wednesday, May 17

I Got Stumped, But for Good Reason

There was a job opening for a position that, if I were to describe my ideal job, would be this job. I'm afraid I would pretty much upend my entire lifestyle to get it, and ask my wonderful family to jump through flaming hoops to help me make it happen (of course, we phrase it differently, don't we? "We'll all be in this together," which sounds great, but the reality is that other than the money, it would all have been for me.) Still, dream job. Open now. That's hard to not at least gawk at on your way past.

It was so very tempting to apply, even though I don't meet a good many of the requirements. Several friends encouraged me to apply, citing that I do meet a good many of the requirements. I thought I would give it a try, but I needed some writing pieces to showcase for the application.

And that's when I got writer's block.

About eating! Food! Nutrition and healing!

Really?

Could there be any clearer sign that this is not the right time for me to be looking for another outside-the-home job? I didn't think so. I sat quietly and thought for a few days. No words came. I sat some more. Last night, I had peace about the whole thing. Do I still want the job? Oh, heavens, yes. I want a job doing what I love (talking to people about healing their bodies with nutrition), learning every day (staying up on the science and new developments), and traveling (we've discussed my bohemian tendencies and my struggle to give them the occasional healthy outlet - thank you, homeschooling and day trips). I want a job where I'm the dumbest person in the room and I can absorb the wisdom of those around me. I want to work in an industry that actually improves lives, creates health, supports healing.

But I already have a job very much like that, and it's a full-time job that deserves full-time attention. Although I'm graduating one this year, there's another one next year. He's pretty set, but he's not ready to be on his own. Another coming down the pike in four years. Those two Littles at the end? They still need to be introduced to authors and stories, to poems and songs. They are still learning the ins and outs of how to read deeply, how to organize their thoughts, how to share their ideas. They haven't had Logic yet! I can't move my focus away from them yet. They need me just as much now as the Bigs have needed me the last 12 years.

I will have other jobs, other opportunities, but they will not have other childhoods.

I'm glad I clued in before I put us smack in the middle of what truly would have turned out to be a 3-ring circus. (Not because people can't work from home and teach -- hundreds of thousands of us do that every year. This is wholly about me and my limitations, my abilities, and the importance of putting my resources where they're needed, when they're needed.) But it's a good thing. A good place to be.

Besides, we've got enough other irons in the fire right now. Potentially some big news on deck for the whole family (that's really good for the whole family!) Party plans, Summer schedules, Confirmation classes, and time enough to keep us busy.

Best case of writer's block, ever.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Friday, April 21

13 is Hard

It just is. Everything grows at odd angles and nothing works right. The brain is fueled mostly by brilliant ideas and good intentions. There's a lot you don't know yet, but you're pretty sure you do. I get it. It's hard. I have empathy for 13 year olds everywhere.

But I also have a whole lot of sympathy for the mothers of 13 year olds.

Dear heaven, give us peace. 
Block our nostrils and our ears 
so that we may see the beauty in the discovery 
over the stink in the bedroom or the snarl of the reply. 

Help us teach them how to bend without breaking, 
and forgive us for occasionally thinking 
that maybe breaking them wouldn't be such a bad thing. 

Grant us the ability to really hear the jokes they tell, 
and really listen to the things they share. 
Help us remember that our sweet babies are still in there, 
trapped by the hormones and oil, 
wanting to be loved and appreciated. 

Help us appreciate them.

Also, Lord, help me not lose my tihs when he hasn't done his laundry again, slept in, and yet managed to grab coffee and slip down to the basement while I was in the shower. Again. He's a good kid. He's not burying bodies or building bombs down there, and for that, I am truly grateful. But that laundry's gotta get done...

Be encouraged (if only in knowing you're not alone, or that it could be worse, whichever fits)!

~ 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


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 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

Monday, April 3

WooHoo!

It's April! The dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom! All the cars are the same shade of Southern Spring Pollen Green! We got a photographer (and he is fantastic)! We found the perfect space for shooting (*swoon*). Then we walked a bazillion miles (aaannnd that's when I realized I should have changed out of my church clothes before going to the shoot - lesson learned. Again. Whatever.) He wore his Steven Universe shirt for some of the photos. I about died laughing when he brought it out, but he said that's what he wants. Cool. But this photographer's going to have to work pretty hard to make that graphic tee and soft, oversized hoodie look legit.

I've known this was coming. (I have the paperwork to prove it.) However, something about the completely innocuous process of getting Senior photos done kicked me in the head. I had my Velveteen Rabbit moment. It's really real. And yes, I got verklempt, although thankfully it happened at Walgreens while I was buying sugar free Peeps (not the same) and hairspray (didn't expect the wind that day). So the cashier at Walgreens likely had a good end of workday story, and I didn't blubber in the street, in front of everyone, or anything.

Graduation packet is turned in. Cap and gown colors picked (graduates get to pick their own - I love that). College is chosen and settled on (again), and he's starting to get excited. He's just wrapping up the last few outside classes. I... hope he's doing well in them... I don't know. That's kind of weird, really.

He's still looking for work, but that's been an excellent series of lessons. Trial and error stinks in the moment, but it develops keen insights and one heck of an elevator pitch. So that's all good. Hopefully it will soon be He Got A Job good.

The rest of us are all ACT prep, ballet, writing classes, and laundry. It's a wild rumpus of entertainment around here. The house projects have taken a markedly antagonistic turn. I'm not sure how much headway we're going to make on those before the party. Or after. (I'm trying not to think about it.) But we do have propane - hot showers, hot meals, clean floors. That's good stuff. That's enough, really. I'm thankful for the bodies in the house, but I'm also thankful they're clean.

So, three days into April and I'm thinking about reconfiguring my days for the longer daylight hours, the busier schedule, and the need to leave time to think and to write. Hopefully, April will be a more active blogging month. Where do you put your time to do the things that refresh and rejuvenate you?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Thursday, March 9

We got it.

Well, I got it. We drove and talked. We listened to Tolstoy's How Much Land Does A Man Need. (Good story. I see what Martin means when he explains why he thinks Tolstoy is better than Dostoyevsky. I get it. I'm just not... sold, and just can't... love him. But it's all good, now.) We talked.

We stopped at a neat little place in Cookeville to meet up with friends and enjoy lunch and company. Our waitress was a delightful woman working her way through her PhD in Reading and Literacy. We squealed (we being my friend and I - John doesn't squeal over PhD plans just yet). But it was so very lovely.

And then... you know how you spend all of your parenting effort in trying to make sure you give your child exactly what he needs, or exactly what you would have wanted when you were a child (because let's face it, that's all we actually know for certain)? And you work really, really hard at being The Best Parent and nailing all the things all the time?

Yeah. And you know how that doesn't really work? And sometimes, to draw an illustration, you're pedaling along, thinking you're knocking out 22mph on your parenting bike, with the wind in your hair and the trees whizzing by on your glorious trek, only to find out you're on a stationary bike and not even actually outside, let alone making any legit progress.

I had one of those moments. Turns out, this one would rather have someone understand how not-fun a situation is than have someone brainstorm ways to make it better. That space gives him time to breathe and think it through on his own. That is totally foreign to me, because if something's bothering me and I say, "This is bothering me," I want some action on it, please and thank you. But the whole point of being supportive is that you want to do it in a way that has the outcome of supporting the person, not just the way that seems supportive to you.

So.

But I'm hopeful, because we talked. Or rather, because he talked. I listened. And then he asked me not to think up solutions - just be still and give him my empathy - that that's what he really needed. And I, being wired for fixing things that aren't working, choked back explaining that I am so very empathetic! SO empathetic that I really do feel his anguish and frustration and I WANT TO FIX IT RIGHT NOW AND I CAN THINK OF AT LEAST FOUR REALLY HELPFUL IDEAS RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE... but I'm not saying that because we could both die of irony, right here in the car. (I did tell him a little later how hard it was not to do that, and we laughed.)

I guess I'm hopeful because of the laughter more than the talking. But also because if he hadn't said, "Yeah, that's not working for me," I wouldn't have known. But now I do, and that's encouraging. (It's also hard, and it's not going to be a cake walk trying to make changes, but they are worth making. He is worth making them for.)

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, March 8

Kentucky is Beautiful and Life is Weird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy