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

Thursday, January 12

Gosh, but I Am So Old!

I used to be my mother's tech support. I could program the record function on a VCR like a boss. I could scan for channels and get a new remote paired with the TV in no time. And her clocks? They were always synchronized and accurate, never flashing. This morning, it's a different story...

I'm writing this up in Open Office Writer because my internet connection is hinky. I ran the troubleshooter and it said the modem is experiencing difficulties (which is code for, “You have Charter. They're probably down, but they said not to tell you that.”) The troubleshooter suggested rebooting the modem.

Hey, I can do that. I remember doing that, back when you had to set up your modem on the phone that could do pulse/button dial tone! (I got a new phone just so I could do that!) My IT is leaving this year, so I'll just quietly assume my old position. Cool. That's cool.

I peered around the back of the TV and...

You can't be serious! First off, we're missing one – either the router or the modem – but there's only one box back there and I'm pretty sure there should be two. So, if the modem is actually missing, that would explain a lot.

But right now, it doesn't really matter because I can't tell if the one that's left is the router or the modem. It doesn't seem to say, outright, what it is. I feel so old.

And my internet is down SO I CAN'T EVEN LOOK IT UP.


I checked my watch. Hmm 6:30... I wonder how long before I can risk waking my tech support?

Where's my phone? I found it. It's charging. Just need enough charge to figure out if that's the modem behind the TV. If so, I'll need to find out how to reboot it. (Yes, I know you just press the button. But there are a zillion buttons.) And if that's not the modem, well, I'm going to have to wake tech support, then, and inquire just where they've relocated the actual modem to...

And why.

Because I am old and cannot even begin to reason where you'd put a modem if not with the router. (Or vice versa.) But I will! And I will put a note in my journal so that the next time this happens I won't be stuck offline during the prime Quiet Moments of the day.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

P.S. James got up fairly early this morning, so I just told him the internet was down and he made magic. He also showed me where the modem is living, now. AND gave me a cool trip  -- if you can't remember which is which, just remember that your modem communicates with your ISP (which is easy - the router broadcasts, or routes, things to the devices in the house), so if you find the ISP cable coming out of the wall, you can follow it to the first box you hit and TA-DA, that's the modem. I'm still not remotely prepared for him to leave, but this will make it easier.

Monday, January 9

On That First College Acceptance Letter

How your children end up, as adults, is pretty much up to them. It really is. You spend years reminding yourself as they grow that they are nearly adults, now, and they have to make their own decisions. That they have to live with the consequences as well as reap the rewards. That you can't force them to make the same calls you would, and that sometimes they make better calls than you would. But there's a big difference in the philosophical aspect of parenting, and the natural inclinations that drive much of our internal dialogue.

And mostly, we're OK with it. Except when we're not.

While I love my kid, and am proud of the young man he's become, I will not lie to you: getting that first acceptance letter from a college application is a huge relief. At least, it was to me -- not because I felt he was a failure if nobody said yes, but because I was terrified I might have failed him, and that would be proof. Some of combating that is in knowing what path they want to take, and some of it comes from applying to places that are a good fit for them. But still, there's that niggling worry... what if all our decisions have effectively barred you from pursuing the very goals we've fostered?

You spend an inordinate amount of the time right before they leave home vacillating between, "It's really up to them" and "Please, Lord, let me not have broken them". It's a hard, weird process -- one that will strip you of your vanity, expose your deepest fears and failings, bring to light your heart's desires (both for your child and, less altruistically, for yourself), and quite possibly tax your liver. I highly recommend it, though, because I am convinced that if you can hang in there long enough, things are pretty fantastic on the other side. (As my brother-in-law says, an adventure is what you're having once you realize you're not gonna die.)

So. I'm not gonna die.

That makes this an adventure.

If parenting is the process of guiding a born person into self-sufficiency and full development, it is also very much a process of dividing yourself up and apportioning bits of you into this same autonomous creature. Then watching in horror as this individual goes off and acts like, well, an individual -- as if your heart weren't wholly vested in this person's safety and well-being and success.

Your heart, but also a bit of your pride. Particularly if you've homeschooled your now-autonomous individuals. (Although whatever educational path a family has taken, a parent's got a lot vested after nearly two decades. That's just the nature of the process.) And if you've got a child who has decided to go the post-secondary education route, that whole process is very invasive and scary. People with magnifying glasses and deadlines hit you with questions, and make demands for referrals and money. And no matter how fervently you swore you would not default to box-checking and hoop-jumping... well, there you are. It's tempting. Because this is your BABY. And we really don't want to be the reason someone said no.

But you know what? They really are their own persons. You have given them the best of yourself, your time, your talents, and above all, your love. The people or places that recognize whatever kindred energy exists between them will honor that and welcome them in. The people or places that don't are likely not going to be a good fit for them, anyway.

But I recognize that that's a much easier thing to say after one "yes".

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, January 5

Herding Cats

A while back there was a technology company that put out a video of cat herders on a kitty drive. It was precious and very well done. (It was also hilarious, and just about every mother who saw it probably considered getting cowboys to help with the child wrangling.) But there were a few lines in the commercial that fit just perfectly:

I'm livin' the dream... I wouldn't do nothin' else... when you bring a herd into town and ya ain't lost a' one of them, ain't a feelin' like it in the world. 

So, James and I went to the community college yesterday to get registered. I went for backup and to offer my mad signature writing services, should they need anything official from the "school". I tried to have some fun with it -- "Just think of me as your own, personal bouncer." -- but he thought that was weird and asked me to stopit.

It took five hours to iron out the few glitches that remained, but our spirits were pretty high. We had fun. (We both talk to strangers, so that's handy.) We talked about big things and little things. We enjoyed each other's company. It was wonderful.

As we headed out we got behind a beautiful young mother with her two little fluffy-headed boys in tow. Both boys were wearing sweats tucked into cowboy boots. It snapped me back 15 years to when the older boys were little, running amok on campus in their capes and shorts and cowboy boots. I couldn't help but make little swooning sounds.

James opened the doors for them, and then I was straddling the two worlds - remembering the children they were and seeing the men they're becoming. Nearly two decades collapsed in on me.

I reached out to the mother and told her the first thing that came out...

They are beautiful. And you won't always be tired, I promise.

She laughed. She said she was glad to hear that, because she would really like to not feel harried but she does find herself wishing they would hurry up and become a little less hard to keep track of. I pointed at mine and told her it will come. And it will feel like it came too quickly and took too long, but that most of parenting is weird like that. Told her she's doing fine, her children are precious, and to hang in there.

Then I had to chase James down to get the keys, and I only got to drive by negotiating away control of the heat and air in the car. It was a hot and sticky, but happy, drive home.

And he's registered for classes, now. Onward we go!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 4

Beauty in Life

I've said so many times that God gave us Em because we needed to be reminded that life can (and ought to be) beautiful as well as functional. We can do functional 'til the cows come home, but sometimes it's ugly. She corrects that.

For Christmas, Em had asked for Perler Beads. If you don't have an 8-12yo child in your life, you're probably missing out. They're small, like little pony beads - they have sharp edges like Legos - and they roll like airsoft BBs. So, basically, when I saw that item on her wish list, I immediately scanned for something more reasonable, like a pony or a Disney cruise where you never meet anyone in character costume. Nope. No luck there. The rest of her list was so simple - a sharpie of her own, a soft blanket to replace her gnarly, unsalvageable one... Really, it was a shockingly sane wish list. So, Perler Beads it is!

Recently, I lost my Pampered Chef brown scraper. Since we use nothing but cast iron, and occasionally enameled cast iron, this is A Problem. But I can't find it. It's probably in the upper meadow, and there's probably a perfectly good explanation why, but none of us has any ideas.

And so, one evening, when I started to clean the kitchen, I found this waiting for me at the sink...

She gets functional. But she sees that there should be beauty, as well.

Viewed sensitively and with love; the world blossoms in beauty." ~Kristian Goldmund Aumann

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Tuesday, January 3


I think there's little quite as healthy for a woman's prayer life than having nearly grown children. Sure, you've spent years praying over their angelic heads while they finally (blessedly!) napped, as they headed off to their first overnight excursion, or took on a new skill. You've prayed for their precious little friends through illnesses and new challenges. You've prayed that they will develop discernment, be kind and generous. Prayed that they will have friends who are, too.

But there's something about the fledging process that will drop. you. to. your. knees.

I don't know if it's the fact that they're semi-autonomous, at least in all the ways that matter. They make most of their own choices, but you've got to watch. Sure, you're still there for advice, or, if need be, to help guide them from going off the deep end, but the reins have been passed at this point, and although you're still in the carriage with them (possibly clutching the railing and trying not to gasp and yell, but I just came out of two new drivers, back-to-back, so that could be me), they are the ones driving their own gig. And all that comes with it - success, failure, lessons learned, hopes nurtured, dreams realized... all of it is in their hands.

The stakes seem immense. (Bigger than they seemed when you were the fledgling with the feel of the reins in your hands!) They seem immense in a world where it seems one mistake, one misstep, one thoughtless moment will mark the end of every opportunity. They seem immense in a world where there is so much pressure to know what you're going to do, but very little expectation of knowing how to actually do anything. They seem heart-wrenchingly immense when you realize that someone else's poor choices could end your child's chance to live the life you've prepared him for.

And that's not even getting to the times that you, with your vantage point of years and failures and learning, can see an easier, quicker, more assured way forward... but they have the reins. They're in the thick of it. They're doing the best they can with the perspective they have.

But there's also something beautiful in it. When you learn to pray, you learn to let go. When you admit your fears, you realize they are not yours alone. When you pour the blessings of your heart out on behalf of someone else, you find your own heart is strengthened and emboldened. So when you look up from your prayer, you don't see a riderless carriage careening off a precipice, you see and adventure unfolding. You see that the carriage has a rider, and that the rider is not alone. And it is good.

I have absolutely no idea how any of this is going to go, but I'm excited more than I'm afraid, and that's a good, good thing.

Be encouraged!


Monday, January 2

The High School Years, and Beyond

Blogging with Littles is easy. They're funny and quirky and sweet. They don't particularly care if you share their stories. Blogging with teens is a little trickier. (Stick with me, here. This isn't going where it looks like it's going, but I have an idea and I need to flesh it out. Lucky you!)

They're still funny and quirky and sweet, but even when you've tried to be thoughtful about your children's stories in the early years, you realize they're old enough to tell their own, now... also, that you've probably botched it many times over the years, anyway. Most bloggers stop writing. I get that. (Heck, I've done that!)

But for people who found encouragement or camaraderie or support in the writings of others, that full stop leaves a weird gap. There are moms out there who've followed bloggers with children a little older than their own*, and they were taking notes. (This, too, I get. I have notebooks, a few stray envelopes, and receipt scraps, filled with the words of wisdom and recipes from women whose children are now in their 20's.) We're left dangling.

"Wait! What about... and then... but... nooooo!" We wail as our tribe disappears into the fog. "How will we find the trail?"

The reality is that everyone's in the fog. Every mother you know who has an eldest child is brand spanking new at whatever she's doing right now. She's got no idea what she's doing. She desperately wants to do it well (just as soon as she can figure out what "it" is), and she mostly doesn't want the follies she's pretty sure she's stumbling into to become a template for anyone else. So she gets quiet. Pulls in. Takes the same conversations once held on a more public forum into private messaging and emails. For her children's sake, she takes it private; for her sanity's sake, she keeps her tribe.

But it's good to encourage others in whatever way you can. Whatever way you are comfortable with. I have one friend who managed to blog through her children's teen years. It was about six years of blogging the word "weird" in all its various forms. I didn't get it until about three years ago. Ohhh, yeah, "weird" about sums it up. She is a rock star, as far as I'm concerned.

Some people like to take it to the street, to make eye contact with weary mothers and give them a thumbs up or whisper, "You've got this." These people are making a difference on the front lines.

Some manage to write, conveying the salmon-like struggle upstream with grace and humor, while honoring their adultish offspring and still ringing true to others. I can't claim to be able to offer that, but it's the direction I'd like to go. I'd also like to revamp my sidebar of blogs with active blogs that are in that stage. An in-the-fog series of beacons, if you will. One of my favorites over the last two years has been Grown and Flown. What are some of yours?

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

* Yes, that part of the sentence is a grammatical nightmare, but the more I worked on it, the more tangled it became. So, the women are technically stealing other people's older children and then following yet other women around the world with the children in tow as they make everyone take notes. The visual's a little whimsical, at least, but I could feel the English language slipping away from my grasp the longer I dinked around with it. So as long as you can figure out what I meant, yay you! Just run with it.

Sunday, January 1

The Good Things

2016 seemed like a grueling year in so many ways. But it wasn't all bad. In an attempt to archive some of the good (and some of it was Very Good, Indeed), I wanted to pick a highlight from each month to share. Like the habit of finding 3 Good Things to list when life gets difficult, but on steroids.

January - Z was gone a lot this year, and Dad Boxes, sent from on the road, were a highlight for everyone.

February - we finally got around to designing and building a coffee table to go with the sofa! I love it!!

Also, Buddy finally got over his fear of the car. (He now hops in, goes all the way to the third row, and refuses to acknowledge that you're even speaking to him until you've taken him for a spin around the courthouse!)

 March -- John and James were both called out for the Order of the Arrow.

 In April, we biked the Silver Comet, starting at the AL/GA boarder.

 Oh, and took pottery. This was a pretty fantastic month.

John, his best bud, and I volunteered at a Spartan Race. (The plan was to use our credit to race in May, but that fell through. Still, this was a pretty fantastic experience.)

May - prom! Steampunk. Because that's awesome.

And we bought kayaks for the Littles. OH, why did we wait so long? This was huge fun!

And Chemistry. Every week, with two other families. The house is still standing. There were a few explosions. Semi-controlled, and outside. So that was nice. This was hard, and good, and I'm SO glad we did this.

Jacob got to go to Space Camp. He's hooked, he's got his eye on Mars, and is saving to go back for the next level in 2017.

June - James was selected as a model for the Alabama Fashion Alliance. This changed the trajectory of the entire rest of the year. So much to learn, but such an interesting industry. And he loves it.

And back to Colorado! It was hard - very hard - to come back that last time. And did I tell you we hiked the Manitou Incline? I only got 3/4 of the way up before the Littles mutinied, but James and John made it to the top. Also, we got lapped by an octogenarian who clearly runs it daily just because he can, but even that was encouraging.

July -- We tried Durian for the first time. Because how can you not?

And then Jacob's best bud came home and spent a week scrabbling about the rocks with us.

August -- *phew* This one was hard. (That's not me in the pictures - as far as I know, there are no photos of me doing this. But I did it!) For someone who has no depth perception, is uncoordinated and afraid of heights, this was a gigantic feat. Scouting is cool.

September -- James had his first runway show.

And his second...

October -- we were still out in the kayaks every chance we got this Summer. Er, and fall.

And James received the rank of Eagle Scout!

November -- there's been a lot of fiber art action going on, here. I love these little miniature felted critters that Em made.

A visit from friends from out West!

And a birthday outing! (Actually, a lot of the kids turned 18 this year. This has been bittersweet, but the excitement and anticipation win out because they are just. such. great. young men and women.)

December -- we made it. Full lap. Holy cow.

Here's to 2017 bringing us a time of learning, discernment, joy, growth, support (both given and received)...

Be encouraged!

Thursday, December 29

The Glamorous Side

Do you know what I did today?

I kept a straight face as I helped my eldest son parse the intricacies of communicating with the staff at the local community college. The faculty may be great, but man, their office staff needs some help. We'll have to go down there when they re-open, because as things stand right now, a hold on his account that should have expired at the end of this semester is currently set to expire "December 2099", which, you know, seems a bit drastic for anything not involving criminal or ethical breeches. But the best part is that the dual enrollment coordinator has informed him (in writing, I'm not making this up) that State law prevents that date from being changed.

I don't know. Maybe he pissed off the Governor.

Know what else I did?

I looked for colleges for me! Well, not for me, initially. John had sent me some things to check out, so I started looking on his behalf, but then... there are some really cool academic programs out there. And the next thing I knew, I was looking at family housing in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It's a good thing he's motivated and focused, because I fear I am going to be no help, at all.

I also tallied grades and updated the transcripts, which felt a lot like that image, just up there. Good times. I actually figured out how to upload a correction to the Common App (these things - all things applying for college - should come with donation buttons and a note box: "Yeah, this was on me. My bad. He's actually better at math, but we didn't think it wise to let the student calculate his own GPA. Turns out, we probably should have. But, well, yay for honest students? And did I mention he can math good? So, uh, here's coffee money. Get the Grande. Love ya!")

Actually, it's probably best to just make that available after the decisions are in. I'd still send coffee, even if they said no.

And then, I printed out John's Spring Semester. Got it bound, found a great graphic for the cover... realized I was probably just procrastinating at that point, and got back to business. I can't believe he's also almost done. Just, wow. This is crazy.

In the down times between all that, I ironed a thousand perler bead sets. My plan, there, is to let the process just burn itself out. But y'all are gettin' plastic keychains for every major gift giving occasion this year. Fair warning.

That was the glamorous day. And if you've been homeschooling for any length of time, you know just how shiny and exhilarating a freshly bound planner can be... not even kidding.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Thursday, December 8

Holidays With Teens

So, that's weird. It's still pretty fantastic. Party prep takes all of half an hour, because teens actually help with the cleaning. The cooking is a cake walk, again, because they pitch in. Inside jokes are way funnier because they're old enough to get them.

And yet, you come home from class to find everyone sitting in the dark, glued to the couch, stock still, eyes wide... watching "a creepy Christmas movie". The weird part is that you actually have to watch the movie for a couple of minutes to find out if they're being campy about a traditional movie or if it's really a scary Christmas movie. (Odds are about 50/50, to be truthful.)

The biggest downside to teens so far is that they get so busy and can take themselves -- to work, to study groups -- to Scouts and Exploring -- there's very little time spent together as they get closer to fledging. It's probably supposed to be this way -- how else are they going to learn to be on their own if they're never on their own. But still, that part's a little bittersweet.

Yesterday's party was a blast. With teens and littles and mamas. And so much laughter and food.

Today, 3/5 of the kids and I were up and out the door at some ridiculous hour in order to get into town to see The Nutcracker. The other two had things to do. But for the rest of us, it was so worth it. They hadn't seen it before, and they were enthralled. Jacob's considering taking ballet, now. He was quite impressed with the sheer strength of the dancers. (I think his actual words were, "Wow. They could kick your head clean off!" Not that he would do that, but when you're 13, that seems like a straight up superpower.)

John worked this morning, then had to be at a food drive, so we dropped him off and visited a friend at a yarn store. Em had no idea such things (yarn stores) existed. This may  have been a mistake, but she is so very, very glad we went. We also met a lady there who teaches sign to elementary students in music class, but she mentioned that she doesn't understand it well in spoken conversation because she doesn't have anyone to practice with. The kids would like to go back to crochet and sign with her. And touch the yarn. I'm pretty sure the lure of yarn touching factored in, there.

Then we had ASL class, and arrived home.

The movie is actually creepy.

Be encouraged!

Friday, October 16

On Words and Writing

I love words. Words connect us to each other and allow us to find new ways of seeing the world. Words give us strength when we cannot feel it, and hope when we cannot see it. Words help us identify, explain, and further our goals and dreams; they help us understand the goals and dreams of others. Words are fantastic.

I've spawned at least one child who would be perfectly content if we shared information in binary and just left it at that.

So, you can imagine how incredibly awful it is for us to proof or edit one another's work.

Today, he's filling out an internship application for a position (I have no idea what) doing something (again, no clue) that sounds "absolutely fascinating" to him (and which the rest of us cannot fathom doing without serious remuneration and/or cajoling). OK, that sounds bad. Honestly, I am a supportive parent. I don't have to understand what he loves to smile and nod and bring him cookies. I love that his passion is so far beyond anything I can even comprehend enjoying - it's a dead giveaway that it's wholly his, right?

Anyway, they want him to explain his interests and career goals and why he thinks this position would be beneficial in helping him further his goals. He keeps drawing a blank. He goes into bullet point mode and can't fashion a full sentence. He gets why it's important, but this part doesn't come easily. So he's toiling away, creating syntax, miserable. Meanwhile, my head is exploding with anecdotal miscellany and descriptive explanations. He insists it's not helping. I curled up with a book, thinking I'd just be nearby if he needed me to proof a turn of phrase or find just the right word. (That, too, turned out to be unhelpful, because the book is hilarious, and now there's snorfling and laughing in the background, which is probably an honest impediment. I migrated to another room. Maybe that will help.)

If he were to let me write his blurb, this is what it would say (and I'm guessing I've got much of the actual jargon wrong - he'd have to proof it, although I'm afraid just reading it would make him want to cry):

I love the satisfaction of an efficient system: fast ping rate, smooth upload times, clean data caches. Little makes me as happy as a streamlined LAN or a powerfully configured network system. These things are beautiful to me, and I appreciate them. Because the Universe has seen fit to place me in a home filled with people who tell stories and read literature instead of checking their port settings, who cannot be bothered to care what the router configuration is or whether the connection is secure, I have had the freedom to explore and create, to learn as I go. In spite of, or perhaps due to, the seeming disparity between the things I value most dearly and that which matters to my overlords, I have learned much. I have accomplished much. 

I like my code clean and crisp, my passcodes convoluted and opaque. I want to learn from the masters and know the secrets of increased uptime and of pushing our processors to their limits. I want to work among others who value the beauty of a well-designed system, and to learn from those who know what is Good. 

And this, my friends, is why Z won't let me help with his resumes, either.

So they've both kicked me out, now, and I'm just going to finish one more chapter... But maybe they'll let me help with the cover letter?

Be encouraged~

Sunday, October 4

The weather has cooled off so nicely, and we don't have any of our cold weather clothing out! Also, I realized the other day, when the high was 65 degrees, that we don't really understand "cold weather" anymore. We were freezing! (It was wonderful.)

We saw the strangest thing at dance last week: the Mayberry PD car. Or, maybe not the, but a (although... how many of these are there?) At any rate, I thought it was neat and made the Littles go stand in front of the door for a picture. The Bigs would have understood how cool it was, but they were off being responsible. The Littles let me know they thought it was awkward, and potentially inappropriate, to approach someone else's vehicle and take pictures. 

When we do groceries, we try to find something new to try. We've always done this, and it's just sort of our thing, now. (When the boys were small, it was more a clever means to avoid the impulse buys at checkout - nobody thought to whine over a candy bar when he was holding his very own pineapple or ugly fruit or whatever delight he'd found in produce. Now, it's habit.) This week, Jase and Em found a beautiful, colorful, enticing vat of assorted licorice candies at Sprouts! They smelled horrible, but we had stuck to the list and we hadn't grabbed anything unique, so we thought this would be something fun to try. It was fun, but they tasted about as good as they smelled. I think James got them all -- he's the only one who found anything positive to say about them. The rest of us just took a snapshot and called it good.

And back to schooling. Or not. While the Bigs worked on portfolios and chemistry research, I found the Littles camped out in the den, playing a game they'd created. They were still hashing out the rules, but paused so I could snap a pic for Z. Sometimes, a little reminder of why we're doing what we do goes a long way toward getting us through another long day.

This has been low immunity week for me. I'm covered in bruises, a little tired, and more than a little irritable. Thankfully, it's short-lived. In the meantime, life! School, reading, playing, dancing, hiking. Not nearly enough napping. We should remedy that. But the rest? It's good. Even when it's a little awkward, or gross, or not really what we ought to be doing at all, it's good. I'm glad for that.

Be encouraged~

Wednesday, September 9

Mid-way Through

Today is my mid-point scan. Part of me thinks we should re-enact the fight of the 6yo me who didn't want to go to Mrs. Schnitzius' class. (It was a pretty epic fight on a six-year-old's scale.) The adult part of me is being rather stoic and philosophical, preparing and planning. Thank God that part still functions. As I went through the prep instructions, I got to the part about clothing. They recommend "comfortable clothing with no metal (like zippers)". I have... Well, I have one piece of clothing that fits this requirement.

A pair of yoga pants.

So I sat in my room, stared at my yoga pants, and wondered for a while if I could actually wear them out in public with a straight face when I know full well that I'm not working out. I'm not even going to walk quickly today. Then I slipped them on and giggled a bit.

A friend texted some support and I shared the situation with her. She reminded me of this, and now we both have this song stuck in our heads...

It's also JakeRabbit's birthday. He's at the lake with friends, celebrating another friend's birthday, so although I miss him and hate that his birthday is Scan Day, I know he's having a lot more fun than we are! My friend (the other boy's mother) sent me a pic of JakeRabbit enjoying a birthday breakfast, complete with bacon, eggs, and a cake. They're going to swim before the storms hit, then hang and play and squirrel around indoors. Not a bad way to turn 12.

OK. First bottle of Redi-Cat down (berry is a lot easier to choke down that the mocha -- it tastes less metallic). Time to crack open the second bottle and take this bad boy on.

Be encouraged~

Sunday, September 21

Almost Fall!

It's nearly Autumn, and we're all counting down! Mornings have been cool enough to enjoy a hot beverage and a book on the balcony, and that, alone, makes Summer heat almost worth it.

Jacob is 11, now. James is 16. Jacob, I can handle. But James? I honestly have no clue how that happened. I feel neither old enough to have a 16yo, nor like he's been around long enough to have reached that age. It's a bit surreal, to be honest. I mean, it's not like he's still a pudgy toddler who insists on closing doors people have left open. He's taller than I am by a significant bit (although he'll still gladly close doors and turn off lights, so that's handy), and he's full of great questions and challenging scenarios and wonderful ideas. But still... 16 seems so... grown, but not-grown, and so big-but-not-really-done-yet. But still a lot bigger and more grown than seems reasonable. :sniff:

And it's a little weird. The inner workings of the adolescent mind are fascinating and awe-inspiring, and a titch terrifying, from the parent's perspective. I guess that shows on my face, because he'll often burst out laughing mid-discussion and assure me, "There's no reason for this line of questioning. I was honestly just wondering about the (moral/legal/ethical/historical) implications." Oh. Well. That's... OK, I'll take it.

For Jacob's birthday, we had a little cookout and gathering. James wants to have an anime marathon, so that'll take some schedule wrangling with his peeps. They're all so laid back and easy going. I'm really lucky. Old, but lucky.

Again, I'll take it.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, August 31

Sick School

I've gotta work on reminding the boys that it's okay to say you're too sick to do school. Actually, that it's okay to say you're actually sick, at all. They don't complain. They don't malinger. They might take extra D, keep a water bottle on them and suck down the water, and briefly mention in passing that perhaps something with green chile in it would be good for lunch because they're not feeling so well.

Then they get on with whatever we had on the schedule.

And that's actually kind of cool.

Until I get it, and it lays me out like a beached jellyfish on a hot Summer's day.

ME: What the what, boys? Is THIS what you had? How did you function this week?! 
BOY(S): Um, yeah. I told you I wasn't feeling well. 
ME: You mentioned that you were going to take a shower to see if it would clear your sinuses. You never once mentioned the rodent clawing your tonsils! Or the expanding thing that took over your head. Or how hard it is to remain upright! 
BOY(S): Well, no. But I told you I wasn't feeling well. 
ME: (groaning as I collapse on the couch) The devil is in the details, boys.

And so we fell. One every couple of days or so. It's viral, and it moves quickly, but everyone falls. The worst of it is over in about three days, but then the aftermath looks a lot like the zombie shows (the old ones, with the slow zombies - none of this Zombieland nonsense). It seems to take another five or six days to regroup the strength to function like a normal person. Thank God for Netflix. When I was a kid, being sick meant nothing but daytime TV on rabbit ears. I got hooked and all spooled up on Guiding Light when I had chicken pox in the 6th grade. They got to watch Tudor Monastery Farm, Sword Art Online, and Black Adder. They don't know how good they had it.

But Z and I do. Oh, yes. We were loving technology this week.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, April 19

New Adventures!

Thursday morning, James and I headed out at four in the morning. It was dark and chilly and awesome!

We drove to Chattanooga, and from there, he flew to Albuquerque to participate in a computer competition he's been working on since September. He had to tidy up his hair a bit, for presentation's sake, and get a suit, and then he was off. (He loves the suit, but was sad about the hair. I told him if he knocks it out of the ballpark this year, he can probably show up in house slippers and long hair next year, and as long as he brings the best game, nobody will bat an eye -- he hasn't seen Real Genius yet, and he wasn't really nurtured into adolescence on John Hughes movies, so he probably just thinks I'm in early onset dementia). It didn't cheer him up, any, about the hair, but flying and traveling in relative comfort (meaning, without your siblings' feet in your face, or drool on your shoulder) are compensation enough for a re-set on the hair of your 15yo dreams.

(I have pictures, but there are some changes to Dropbox and I haven't quite figured them out, yet.)

So far, he's having a great time! He enjoyed the flight. His terribly awesome Uncle took him shopping at the Asian market, where he got to stock up on all manner of goodies and interesting things. (He does love interesting foods!) He's been working on things I don't understand, and taking on projects I didn't expect, and in general, just spreading his wings and giving them a good stretch and a couple of flaps.

I miss him terribly.

But this is so good, and such a neat part of growing up. I can't feel anything but excitement for him.

Kiss those babies ~ even when they aren't babies, anymore! They're still so amazing!


Tuesday, January 28

That was fun.

It was such a cool weekend.

EmilyGirl left a note for the tooth fairy.

So sweet. And she's completely on to me, but doesn't seem to mind.

She also put the tooth into an origami box she'd made. There was a hole in the top so the fairy could document that yes, the tooth is there, but Em was really hoping to keep the tooth. I did not know this at the time, and now have a frankly fantastic addition to my Collection Of Things That Will Probably Freak Out My Adult Children After I'm Dead: a stray tooth in a paper box! But really, it's just too awesome to release back into the detritus of the crafting area and allow to end up in the back end of a vacuum. So I'm keeping it.

The guys made chips and queso to take to youth group, so not only did we get to be helpful, but the kitchen smelled magnificent all afternoon Sunday. (If you think a small Mexican restaurant smells magnificent, which we totally do. Someday, someone will come out with green chile scented candles. I live in hope.)

Z repaired the dishwasher for the happy price of a bottle of Lime-Away. And some creative application of elbow grease and a pointy thing. I don't know. We walked in halfway through, so all I had to do was get a little calcium build up off the sprayer arms and then dance in the kitchen during the test run. He did the sleuthing and heavy lifting. It worked out perfectly, too, as the boys have been doing dishes by hand for a little over a week - just long enough to be pretty appreciative about unloading the dishwasher this morning.

Also, after some particularly disgusting failures over the last several months (and with the help of a friend who said, "Use this recipe, but use that method,"), we managed to make homemade mayo successfully today. When it works, you feel like Penn Jillette. (When it doesn't, the feeling is closer to Gob*.) But seriously, that's a simple thing that's geeky-cool. If you haven't tried it, yet, and you have a stick blender, you've gotta try it. Truly, I don't know how the people in the demonstration videos don't geek out over watching it happen every. time.

Kiss those babies!

*Gob Bluth, definitely not Penn & Teller...

Tuesday, January 1

So, it's a new year...

That would explain the look of bewilderment Z gave me when he asked what our plans were last night, and I said, "I don't care what we do, but we better get on it, because they are not staying up until ten-thirty again!"

It was a long day, okay? In the post-Christmas lag, with the ongoing parenting, feeding, cleaning, general wrestling of the feral cats (and rounding up the slippery one), my brain shuttled any knowledge of a pending celebration and instead focused (somewhat intently) on curling up with a roaring fire, some Bailey's in the coffee, and a Jasper Fforde book. I love my kids, but none of that scenario included having the children up until all hours of the night.

But, it's New Year's Eve!

Aaanddd, they're old enough to know what's going on. I kind of miss the days that I could point to the sunset and say, "Alrighty, kids! It's almost time for bed!" Not so bad in the summer, because they're outside, and in the winter, hey, half the population of Florida eats dinner at 4:30 and hits the hay by five. Nothing wrong with that. But they grow up, learn to tell time, read a calendar, and eventually look at you expectantly because they *know* there's a holiday on. And, as I explained to EmBaby when she asked what the big deal was about marking a full rotation around the Sun, humans are celebratory creatures. We like to come together, we like to mark the special amidst the mundane. We look for any opportunity for a feast or a gathering, and we set those opportunities aside. They become special because we make them so. It's good stuff, this being Human. The reminder didn't hurt me one bit, either.
Luckily, it only took a little recalibration on my part (made easier by Z taking everyone with him to the grocery and the video store, so I had a few minutes to think in full sentences and not have to mediate the cabin-fevered children - bless him!), and we were off for an evening of fun.

We had jalapeno and green chile cheese dip. We had fish tacos. We had root beer floats and Christmas candy. (Evidently, our theme for the New Year is, "Eh, why not?") Then we put the two littles to bed, and we had zombie movies and sparkling cider. We chased down some good ideas for 2013, and sketched out a plan. I thought back to when I was 12 and 14, already ready to be gone from the house for NYE, instead of stuck at home, not talking, just sitting there, staring at each other. And I thought how thankful I am that we have a different dynamic in our home. That the boys are forgiving of their aging mother and her desire for quiet in the wee hours of the night, but that they're not surprised that she can get in there and laugh and fisk a good zombie movie, too. We laughed. A lot. We ate a lot. They shared some of their ideas, and they have good ideas. We shared our ideas. (Have I mentioned that the boys are patient? They are.)

We don't know what this coming year will bring, but we know we'll give it our all, and we'll do it together. That's enough. That's actually more than enough. It's going to be an amazing year!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 19

Learning in the New Year

I've been quiet about our plan since the Big Epiphany. Sorry about that. We were thinking, and working, and wondering how to pull this off. I still don't have a taker for the Committee Chair position, but I'm hopeful. Beyond that, though, I think we have eliminated much of the extraneous mess and have a good, solid plan in place.

Starting in January, we have three strong, traditional, academic days a week carved out. These days will carry the brunt of the hard labor - the math, languages (both foreign and domestic), and the science and history. We still have to go through the lesson plans and make sure this will work, but it looks good.

Wednesdays will be our heavy literature day. I'm considering making some Ozzy or Metallica book covers to go with it, and of course I've got a soundtrack in my head. This will be a day of reading, music, reading, and literature discussion. We will probably re-institute afternoon tea for wrapping things up. History is still tied to literature, so there's a thread of continuity, there. And we already have memory cards in a travel case that we've been using for foreign language and poetry, which we'll use on Wednesdays, as well.

Fridays - and this is where we went off the rails a bit, but I think it could work - Fridays will be our Independent Learning Days. This is the day the boys take charge and lead us on adventures they want to explore. We have Cubs in the mornings, and one Friday a month we have Skate Day, which is only slightly less inviolable than, say, Easter. So we needed to find a way to work with Fridays that wouldn't make the entire day a wash. The boys are old enough, and engaged enough, that I decided to give this day to them. This is the day we'll hit museums, do volunteer work, visit artisans and shops. This will be the day for projects - to make movies or write games, to build models or develop interpretive dance routines based on the Abyssinian military model. Whatever. And I've given the boys a heads up that there are plenty of things *I* want to learn about, so if they don't step up and make suggestions, well, then we're going to have an entire semester of architectural history and more literature!

We've discussed how often people complain that learning this or that is dumb, yet when you give them leave to study things that aren't "dumb", they don't know what they want to learn. They cannot fathom that learning is fun, or that you can sometimes wield your own carrot and stick. There's a disconnect between the mere idea of learning and the joy that it brings. Mine don't, and I appreciate that -- although they've been known to express skepticism about the validity of a lesson or two, they acknowledge that there's probably shizzle they aren't privy to, and they trust me -- that good faith goes a long way. Still, I want to make certain we keep those two ideas connected, without sacrificing the rigor of a quality education, or sucking the joy of a delightful journey from them. We lost some of that this past year, and we aim to get it back. (Way to set the bar at just the right height for a good clotheslining, huh? I hope it doesn't take us down. We'll see.)

And there we are. Now to get to the lesson plans and shuffling of the shelves. Zorak has agreed to build a coat rack for the new dining room similar to the one in the foyer, but with a shelf below it where we can stage our things for each day's adventures. (Now that we use the balcony to come and go, the foyer is less relevant and ends up being more of an open-sided storage cubby than a functional staging platform, so this will be great!) Theoretically, we are set for a fantastic year ahead!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 30

:whispers: I'm not here...

I should be in bed, but I'm not sleepy yet.

So, things are shaping up nicely. I showed the kids the Big Epiphany. The relief that emanated from James' very pores was impressive. John gets it, too, and both of them look forward to the changes we'll be making. Jacob seemed un-phased, but he spends most of his time thinking of ways to get more Lego time in, anyway, so there's not going to be a huge Delta for him in this regard.

James had a fantastic suggestion -- that we get back to using more literature-based materials. I don't know how or when we got away from that, but we did. We spent a good portion of today pouring over book lists, digging up copies we own, and making a list of the books we know we want to add. It's been a while since the kids have been that engaged, but that's what we're after!

Then I started looking for ways to pare down the overall obligations without sacrificing the things that really are beneficial. I gave notice that I won't be doing the Awards Coordinator position for the Pack for 2013. I've served two years in that position, and it's pretty much turnkey at this point. I'll still be on the committee, will continue to lead Jacob's Den, and will help out with things as needed, but the cuts have to come from somewhere, and I'm comfortable with that one. I've also approached someone about stepping in as the Troop Committee Chair for the coming year. I'd still stay on the committee, but perhaps as Secretary. (I'm already doing the monthly parent newsletter and round-ups, and I do enjoy those.) And a friend offered last month to take over the Fundraising Coordinator job for me, too. (Bless her!) So that's a good start.

If we can free up one more day, and make some alterations to our errand running plans, I think we'll be in good shape. Or at least we'll have bought ourselves a little breathing room, which I desperately need at the moment.

On the project front, Zorak got the second coat of mud on the drywall tonight. We'll sand it and check it tomorrow - maybe texture, maybe do one more thin coat. Either way, we'll be painting the wall and putting the rest of the cabinets and the refrigerator back this weekend. He hooked up the sink for me last night. I haven't been that glad to do dishes by hand in a long, long time, but after washing them in the tiny bathroom sinks for a week, this was luxurious. Tomorrow, we'll eat normally again!

We bought a camera at Target on Wednesday. I thought it would be similar to the old silver one that died, and I was so excited. But it's not. It's chintzy and flimsy and doesn't take very good pictures. Also, we got 12 shots, no video, and it drained the batteries to the point that it couldn't use the flash. It could be the batteries, but there are enough drawbacks without that concern that I'm thinking it needs to go back to the store, anyway, and we'll try another one. Anyone have a decent, everyday camera you like? (Don't need love - it's too close to Christmas to think about love - I just need something other than my gimpy phone for taking Christmas and activity pictures.)

And now, to bed, for tomorrow, we smile!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 28

Encroaching Obligations

For years, I've guarded our time at home. It's our downtime, our quiet time, our sanctuary from the ever-pressing Busy Life. This is where we delve into the ideas we have, share our questions, and explore new things. When the boys had baseball practice on Thursdays, we had piano lessons, bought groceries, and ran errands on Thursdays. Granted, it made Thursdays a little hellish, but it kept the rest of the week free and flexible. When we dropped baseball, I moved things around a bit to free up the ends of the week, but kept that same mindset: one day a week is all I'm willing to give to outside activities and demands. That felt so good. It felt so good that I clung to the idea long after I'd allowed it to die.

Recently, I've felt as if we're just bowled over by a lack of time. But we only leave the house two days a week! (Errand day and church.) How can that be? How can we not have enough time? And I pressed to make us more efficient, more focused, more diligent. Let's get to bed earlier, get up earlier. More focus, less distraction. Let's go, move, DO! Hop on one foot with our tongues on our noses while we feed the animals.

OK, that last one, not so much. But for all the good it would have done, we might as well have tried it. I sat down tonight to make our menu for the next two weeks, and thought about how I often get caught without a *good* plan on the rare occasion we have somewhere to be. So, I thought to myself, let's jot down in the menu where we have to go on those days and see if that helps remind me to plan quick meals, or crockpot meals, or whatever creative endeavor needs to happen on those days.

What the what, Batman!?

We have piano/guitar/groceries/errands one day, Scouts another day, Cub Scouts another day, community activities another day, church on Sundays. Roundtables and committee meetings. Add in the monthly Scout outing (which takes a full weekend), the regular Pack events (an additional night a month, plus prep time), Forge meetings, homeschool social activities, work, and the time required for the Projects That Must Be Done and...

We're never home. We're never still. Not for any appreciable length of time. There is no downtime. There is no quiet time. We've allowed the demands of time to be made on our every little corner of the day. And I never saw it. I never realized that this obligation, or that activity, or those events had effectively robbed us entirely of the buffer I'd thought we guarded so carefully. And the funny thing is that if you'd asked me about each thing, individually, I'd have defended each item as being Beneficial and Worthwhile. Taken as a whole, though, I'm not convinced. Our lives have not been significantly richer the past six months. They've not been more enjoyable (although we are not miserable by any means). They've just been... Busy.

And I've continued to try to pack our home life, our studies, our projects, and our downtime into what little space is left. No wonder it's felt like we're swimming with only one arm against an undertow.

So, something's got to give. I'm not sure what, or how. That's going to take some family time and discussion. It may be that we decide to keep it all and pare down the home goals, but I doubt it. I think we need to rebuild the buffer and rethink our priorities. Or, at least, I do. This one's all on me.

It's good to know, though. Meal planning for this week was a snap, at least! And hopefully by next week, we'll have a clearer idea of the path forward.

And I'm reminded of the phrase, "Live Intentionally". I know better than to let life happen to us, than to relinquish my post at the lookout, or neglect my duties at the helm. (Reminds me of another adage: "Be vigilant, for nothing one achieves lasts forever". *aherm* Yes. Well.) We must be diligent in our choices, and make each decision as if it is taken at the expense of all the other choices, because it is. Let it be worth the trade, so that we do not look back over our lives with more "If only..." than there has to be. (The natural learning curve of Life somewhat necessarily mandating that there will always be some, at least.) And so, we will live intentionally,

and kiss those babies.