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

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


Sunday, March 5

Sleep

It is 9:40 this morning. Everyone is asleep except for me, and the one who wakes up talking nonstop. So we're hanging out, chatting and doing things. It's a lovely way to start the day.

The show last night was fantastic. I did not know what to expect, but it did not disappoint. We had four incredible designers showcasing their looks, several local boutiques and stores, and a millinery show that absolutely blew the crowd away. I can see why this is a passion for so many -- when you can see that in your head, how can you not work to make it a reality?

I think that's something we can all take from the art communities - Go For It. If you've got a vision, if you've got an idea, don't let excuses get in your way. Make it a reality. The work is going to be hard, long, complex, and challenging, but in the end it will be more satisfying than words can describe. We should all tackle the ideas in our heads with such vigor.

That said, I've got to tackle the Calendar Vikings and the Budget Broadcast today, or the inside of my head is going to resemble nothing but the kitchen of a poorly run restaurant. We've got a campus visit this week, and I have no idea what else...

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Friday, March 3

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

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

Thursday, March 2

Dumb and ...

Sometimes, while going over how best to approach something, We Who Live Here and up having conversations that go like this:

"You want to get up and get ready for the day as if you have an interview."

"But I don't have an interview."

"But you could."

"But I don't."

"But you could!"

"I think I'd know if I had an interview."

"OK, that's true. But it could be a surprise interview."

*awkward pause*

"So you're saying there's a chance?"

*Insert another awkward pause as we try to figure out which of us is Jim Carrey in this discussion.*

via GIPHY

And yeah, life is weird. No, we're not always going to have an interview. Or a surprise interview. But I can say that the few times I've slipped out of the house in my generation's equivalent of a Steven Universe shirt and a pair of sweats when I was actively looking for work, I've run into someone who was poised to advance or hinder my forward progress to my goals. (Not the goals that involve wearing that, either.) It's just the cruel irony of life.

When you add in the fact that we're a good 40 minutes from anyone who might want to interview any of Us Who Live Here, well, you're going want that extra time to make the drive when someone does call at 11 in the morning and says, "Hey, we got your resume and would love to speak with you. Can you come in this afternoon?"

Worse yet, you want to be able to say yes if you're already in town when they call to invite you in and there isn't time to go home, shower, change, and get back into town. (True story.) Or just muster the moxie to show up in your con shirt and cut off shorts and hope for the best. But honestly, that level of muster is exhausting and not sustainable.

Thankfully, the kids get that I'm not just making this stuff up. It's real. It's pertinent to them. This is not just Mom Talking To Hear Herself Make Words. Most of the time. Sometimes they need to experience their own True Story for it to come together. But that's OK. Life is really quite complex and nuanced, and we have many more odd conversations to have before they're ready to leave.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the phone calls and texts that will come in the future. Hopefully we'll be able to laugh and say, "Ah, so there was a chance!"

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Sunday, February 26

Stress. It's so stressy.

The other day, James brought up an idea in an article that he'd read. I'm going to try to find it, but the gist was that one of the biggest stressors in life is Unmade Decisions. While it seems silly that opportunity is stressful, it also makes sense. There's that level of uncertainty - if you don't know what you want to do, what are you going to do? If you can't make a decision, opportunities dissolve (and they may not be ones you wanted to take in the end, but you'll never know, now), communications dwindle (we all know the discomfort of realizing you didn't communicate something, and now it's awkward, so you keep putting it off, and it keeps getting more awkward... but the need is still very much present), the pressure of deadlines and expectations and disappointments pile up. It's all very paralyzing.

You may have plenty of options in front of you: gap year, wander the earth like Cain, work, intern, university, community college for a bit with an eye to transfer, community college with an eye toward certifications, apprenticeship. But where you're going to be in a year, in two years, is going to look very different if you take the wandering route than if you take the work route. So there's that high-level, intrinsic uncertainty that erodes as any attempts to make plans or decisions when there are Unmade Decisions - especially the ones that hinge on an Unmade Decision.

Some of this seems unavoidable, and I default to rest, hydration, nutrition, and spiritual care. Then just suck it up beyond that. But I did find this article at Psychology Today, which doesn't address the stress of Unmade Decisions directly, but is very thoughtfully presented input on making sound decisions.

This discussion came up in the context of James' stress, specifically. He is so stressed. Honestly, he's doing fine. He's on track-ish. (There's always room for improvement when your parents aren't doing the paperwork and planning. It's harder in the short term, but so much better in the long run. Hence, the -ish. It's said with love, and a nod at reality.) He's got ideas and plans, and they're good, but the stress in his head is impacting his ability to think, or to plan. It hit me the other night that he really needs to make the decision as to which college he will commit to attending. I suspect that having that uncertainty no longer floating in his head will smooth out the chaos in there a bit and let him get to working on the immediate tasks with a little more confidence. (And, honestly, I pitched that half expecting it to be blown off as Crazed Mumbo Jumbo Mom Spouts, but it wasn't. He gets that that is contributing to a certain inability to make other plans, to engage and get excited about something concrete and attainable. So, whew. I'm glad he pulled something helpful from what I put out there. I'm even more appreciative that he shared the information he had on Unmade Decisions - it was like connecting two dangling thoughts into one coherent concept, for both of us.)

I need to keep reminding myself that it's best to have the mind of a beginner, even as the parent. We don't really have to have all the answers - we just have to be willing to wend our way toward finding them.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, February 25

First Visit Without Me, Still Don't Know What I'm Doing

It's John's turn to visit colleges he's picked this Spring. He's at his first visit without his brother, which I think is going to be really great for him. They get along well, but they are so different, and they operate on different frequencies. So it'll be good for John to explore at his pace and see what resonates with him.

He's also there without me, and while it's fantastic for him to have time with Z, and all that ... This is weird. So I'm up, doing paperwork, paying bills, quieting the Calendar Vikings.

And texting with a friend who is about the same distance down this path as I am. (She's got one fledging, and one running the system check to get on deck next year.) She, too, sounds like she's being held hostage in a game show where you have to figure out the rules as you play and they throw wet things at your head when you get a question wrong. I had no idea this was what we sounded like, but there's been a lot of, "You, too!" and "I'm so glad it's not just me!" flying back and forth this morning. So, yeah. There's that.

So, to those of you fledging your first this year, we raise a toast. Yes, it's before 5. Yes, it's a stout one. We salute you. You are not alone.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Friday, February 24

Understanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, February 17

TGIT... erm, F...

Wow, got up this morning and thought, "How is it Thursday already?"

But it's Friday.

So that gives you a good indication of how I'm doing, here. Happy, but totally not caught up.

We're in a lull at the moment, which, really, we needed. There was a harrowing, break-neck race a couple of nights ago to submit an application before the midnight (please let it have been "midnight Mountain time") deadline. One of the children got a fantastic crash course in the value of submitting applications before the actual deadline -- when successful submission opened up a variety of additional scholarships for which he qualified. Each one required an essay. He had 40 minutes to do it, and our internet crapped out at the 30 minute mark.

I can't tell you how fantastic it is to have a child get a clue that you didn't lob at him from across the room.

I also can't tell you how thankful I am that I'm not a heavy drinker, because it seems like a totally legit go-to at some points.

But I didn't yell. I climbed in bed with a book and told him to text me when he got the issue fixed. He did. The moment has passed, it's done, and now we're moving forward.

Jacob tried to find another class he could move into, to free up some of the time crunch on our Thursdays, but that was a bust. We both plan to use some insane Introvert Time Protection Schemes when he's registering for this fall -- not because either of us is introverted, but because introverts know how to guard their time, and we clearly have no clue at all. We can't be trusted with the calendar.

I want to sit in this lull and enjoy it, but I also want to hurry up and get to the next adventure. Life is weird. But so good. It's all good, and I appreciate it!

What are you looking forward to? And what are you enjoying now?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, February 9

Thank Goodness for Cell Phones

With the older boys out and away so much, we got them cell phones to help with the logistics. Sometimes I wonder why we bothered. They seldom answer them. Neither one has set up voice mail (not that any of us checks it -- what a different world it is since the advent of caller ID!) There isn't a segment of society I know of that is more likely to leave the house with 9% battery charge and no charger cable.

And yet, what a difference it's made to have this technology readily available.

One little message lets us know they've arrived safely.

"Survived"

"not dead"

"didn't die"*

None of mine send normal messages like, "made it on time" or "we have arrived safely at our destination and will now proceed with the scheduled activities". I'm OK with that. They're communicating with me. They're giving me what is, truthfully, the only part I care about: Are You OK? It's wonderful. And they're good about that.

With one swipe of a finger, they let us know if there was a change in plans: "Going to Austin's" or "Sent the Littles ahead with John".

In the 80's? Yeah, that wasn't gonna happen. (You may have been a better kid than I was, and been better about touching base. My friends and I tended to act like once we left the house, that part of our lives was paused and the part we were in was the only one with anything actually happening. Not consciously, mind, but looking back at it, that seems to be a reasonable explanation. We weren't intentionally jerks, but we were thoughtless about anything that wasn't the here and now.) I think kids do still tend to be a little thoughtless about anything that's not the here and now, but cell phones make it easier to remember to let your mother know you're not dead in a ditch right now.

My poor mother. All our poor mothers. We may or may not have had a quarter on us. Or thought to ask a friend's mother if we could use their house phone. And when there was a change of plans? Mmm-boy. My mother is gone, but if your mother is still alive, would you please apologize to her on my behalf?

If only for that, alone, the cell phones are wonderful. Add in the ability to say, "We're out of cream," when they'll be passing the store, or "Do you need gas money?" while you're actually AT the bank, and it drops the whole difficulty factor of communication by a full magnitude.

So while these perks don't negate the very real concerns our kids have to face with learning to navigate technology, and they don't replace legit parental involvement and communication, I am feeling the very real love for what positive things they've brought into our lives.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

*actual examples of standard messages

Saturday, February 4

That Was Bracing

I awoke this morning to a cold house and the heat just blowing for all it's worth. It seems that after Z and a boy had let Buddy the Dog out this morning, he'd decided he wanted back in. Since they were already gone and the rest of us were asleep, he ditched the back yard and tried the front door, which, luckily for him, was not secured. So he nudged it open and happily curled up on his bed in the living room. Leaving the 22 degree air to waft through the house for us. Anybody had any luck teaching a dog to close a door?

So, I'm up. Really up. Wide awake and ready to roll! That's good.

And Z had made coffee before he headed out. Also appreciated.

We have a quiet weekend planned. The Scouts are serving a pancake breakfast this morning, and Jacob has rehearsals. A little reading, a little cleaning. Worship tomorrow. Our weekends aren't the most exciting thing in the world, but they are so very nourishing -- time for us to spend together, time for us to regroup.

It just hit me that the kids probably don't see the rhythm of it all. Hmmm. I don't want to be pedantic and turn every interaction into a "lesson" for them, but I don't want them to miss the opportunity to spot the importance of downtime, of cycling your activity, of touching base and recharging. They're going to need that one day (some sooner than others). Maybe I'll point it out this afternoon - make a pot of tea, read aloud, express my appreciation for this time. The appreciation bit is absolutely genuine. And who doesn't love a little hot tea on a cold afternoon?

I do hope the house is warmer by then.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, February 3

The Best People In The World

Do you know who the best people in the world are? They're the ones who "get" your kid. The ones who believe in her and have high expectations for her, but who step in with grace and affection and love when the kid gets overwhelmed, or makes an honest mistake, or even does something boneheaded.

They're the ones who give you room to laugh and shake your head and remember that we were all once just-barely-grown and trying to figure it all out.

They allow you to shed your frustration and come back to a place of support and encouragement.

They're the ones who point out what they love about your child when your brain is freaking out and you're starting to wonder if the only real options available are homelessness or living in the basement. (Which, they're not. But the brain is a crazy organ with a warped sense of humor.)

They're the ones who willingly write up a letter of recommendation on only 12 hours notice because someone didn't read the application all the way to the end before taking a deep, panicked breath and starting on the essay.

They're the ones who share their own stories with your child -- about missed deadlines, or botched labs, or fender benders, or whatever mishap your own kid is currently beating herself about the head for. (We actually spent about half an hour at book club a couple of weeks ago sharing stories of freak car incidents we'd all experienced, to encourage a young man who'd had One Of Those Days. In the end, he was able to laugh - mostly at us, and our ridiculous stories - and realize that he hadn't doomed himself to being That Kid forever and ever.)

They laugh gently, they cluck sympathetically, they point out that it doesn't mean you're awful, it means you're human.

And humans are fantastic if you give them room to be!

The best way to find these people is to be one of these people. If you have this, feed it regularly and roll around in it - you're all doing good work, and it matters. If you don't have this, fire it up. Roll up your sleeves and go love on some kids. You'll find your people. They tend to create a symbiotic energy, encouraging and loving on each other and each other's children in turn. It's a beautiful gift you can give to yourself, your children, your friends, their children, and so on. It really is.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Thursday, February 2

I Don't Know What I'm Doing, And Neither Do They

Yesterday, I had such a wonderful visit with a friend. I think you would find it encouraging, too. So that's what I'm going to talk about.

Kids Don't Know What They're Going To Do -- and that's OK.

To be fair, in my circle of friends, the parents seem to have a good grasp on that, but the kids don't believe them. The fledglings are stressed, worried, unsure, and a little weirded out by this whole process. The parents, after a couple of decades raising children, have realized that nobody really knows what they're doing, and that's OK.

Certainly, we educate ourselves, we approach choices thoughtfully, and try (with all our might) to make sure we're making the best choice we can with the information we have. But in the end, it always feels like we're blindfolded, throwing darts. It takes us a while to realize all the others around us feel the same way. Thankfully, we're not all actually doing just that (that sounds like a terribly dangerous room to be in), but it absolutely feels that way. We come to terms with that at some point.

So I'm not really talking to you. But in a way, I am. When we understand that about ourselves, we can combine that understanding with the fact that that kids - who still have way more energy than we do, tend to experience things very deeply, have a drive to do Amazing things, and are also blessed with the ability to be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN about many things - are also still very much just younger versions of their adult selves (they just haven't realized yet that the blindfolds-and-darts feelings don't ever really go away), and we can then relate to and encourage them in meaningful ways. Mostly by modeling and living what we know to be true. Definitely by using more than words...

Other than, "Don't worry about it," which sounds supremely ridiculous after umpteen years of, "You have to take care of the things in front of you!" and "Deadlines matter!" and other such prudent direction.

...Other than, "You'll figure it out".

...Other than, "You don't have to know what you're going to do." Again, compare this to at least a dozen years of hearing people - family, friends, strangers in the grocery store - ask them what they want to be when they grow up. After a while, it's pretty easy to interpret that to mean they're expected to have not just a clue, but an entire plan. If your fledgling is in the last few years of school, he/she likely feel like it's quickly heading to a double jeopardy round -

"I'll take College Majors for a thousand and pray I don't choke, Alex."

Some kids do have a plan. They have a solid plan. It is THE PLAN. And they come apart at the seams when that plan changes, or dissolves. They need us to model that it's OK.

Some kids are afraid to make a plan, because if it changes or dissolves, then that's failure. We have to think fondly back on some of our more meaningful failures and let them see us laugh about it, now. It's OK.

Some kids use the hold-off-on-all-decisions-until-there-is-only-one-option left approach to figuring out their path forward. For this, I can only recommend a hearty snifter of brandy and a good book. That one's painful to watch. But they're going to be OK. And honestly, they're going to be OK much more quickly than they feel, or we fear, or than anyone suspects. We need to reflect that they can do it, and that it will be OK.

I think the key might be in knowing (in our hearts) that it will be OK, and then freeing ourselves up from the pressure and the uncertainty to listen to (really hear) them, to empathize, and then we can throw darts to get the timing down for when to nudge and when to break out the tea and sympathy.

If you  have fledged ones, what do they say was the most encouraging for them? What would they say helped the most as they were heading out? We'd love to hear their thoughts!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 29

We Cannot Do Everything

That sounds so trite. I know. But here it is, Sunday, and I'll tell you, I am dragging. Dragging more than the schedule would indicate makes sense. But I think maybe I've reached the limit of my contortions and we're going to have to scale something back. (As I write that, I am reminded that I have a meeting Wednesday to see if I can help with the back end of a project coming up... hmm... probably should have written this post last week. Someone get me a Time-Turner! Or a virtual assistant!)

James and I headed out of town yesterday for a photo shoot. That was a fantastic experience. Not just the shoot, but the whole road trip. I so enjoy spending time with him, and when we're on the road (and nobody's doing Zombie Rainbow Dash impressions in the second row, so it's quiet), we have time to just talk. Laugh. Ponder. He's a neat young man, and I'm glad to know him.

This afternoon, the boys went to their Godparents' with Z to split and stack wood for the house. I love that when we mentioned the need, they all said, "When do you wanna go?" This wasn't on my radar when I was pregnant with any of them, but if I'd thought about it, it's one of the traits I'd have prayed for for each one. Lord, make them generous in spirit and willing to work. ( Now, I pray, "Lord, thank you for thinking of that when I was too young and scared to think beyond, 'Please let them be OK'!")

When the rest of us got home, I turned the Littles loose to play video games for a bit and I worked on the menu, the lesson plans, social media, work, and chatting with a cousin. That was lovely. No clue how to make our weeks less draining yet, but hopefully inspiration will strike soon. If not, there are a few episodes of Doc Martin left, and I have fuzzy socks!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 18

College Fairs and Do Overs

There's a college fair in town today. John and I are going to go check it out. We went two years ago, but he was a Freshman that year. (We went for James, and John got to hang out with his buddy, who was a Junior. I'm pretty sure the parents got the most out of that one, just by standing back and observing.) I am, however, hopeful that this year he'll get more out of it, and maybe get excited about visiting schools.

I really hope I'm doing this right. You want your children to be happy. You want them to challenge themselves. You want them to have a life filled with good work and strong connections. You want them to be all they can be (in the Army, or in civilian life - although kudos to the Army's marketing team for absolutely owning a phrase for all eternity. Well played, my friends. Well played.)

But where's the line between pushing them too hard and, say, encouraging them to punt? How do you nurture their passions without neglecting Something Really Important That You Didn't Think About? And how do you make sure you're not squashing their inner momentum with what you perceive to be Good Advice? What's the best way to encourage-but-not-badger? And do they need to be badgered sometimes? And how big of a badger do you need to use?

Sadly, these are just variations on the same questions I've been asking for 18 years. I'm no closer to the answers. (Although during one conversation, one of the kids did say, "Sometimes, I need to be nagged. I'm sorry, but it's true." So, yay for honesty?) All I have are some moderately successful ideas, some "Yeah, never do that" ideas (and, of course, the caveat there is "never do that for that particular child", because the next child may very well respond quite well to whatever broke the previous one). The learning curve is steep and... curvy.

But then, James and I were talking about do-overs the other day. He's got a few he'd like to take. I've got a few (or... more than a few...) I'd like to take. He asked some pretty direct questions about what kind of do-overs I had in mind if I could go back and try again with him. (There was definitely a kind of, "Whoa, whoa, whoa there. What kind of craziness might I have dodged?" feel to the line of questioning. It made me laugh.) Turns out, he liked his childhood. He appreciates his education. He loves his life. He encouraged me to just leave it alone if I do get the chance to go back and change things.

To be truthful, I probably wouldn't leave it alone. I would be gentler when I was tired. I would spend more time doing art and making messes. I would be far less fearful. I would be more fun. I would heed Good Advice when it was handed to me. But don't tell him that, please. He's happy, and I'm so, so glad.

Be encouraged!

~Dy