Showing posts with label scouts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scouts. Show all posts

Saturday, May 20

Hiking. And Ticks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Tuesday, March 14

From 0 to 60 in 3 years!

Thankfully, we are not sports cars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, March 12

A Sleepy Day of Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, January 26

Packing Lists and Trekking Plans

I got a belated Christmas surprise this week: 

I'm going to Philmont with the boys this summer! 

Oh, how I wish I had a stash of gifs to put right here! (Picture dance gifs and confetti. Maybe even music.)

This is my one chance to go. James has aged out without ever a whisper of a desire to spend that much time outside. Jacob is only waiting for John to earn his Eagle and then he wants to switch to Civil Air Patrol. This is it. This is the Big Opportunity! I'm so excited!

And my gear is all about 30 years old...

Well, then.

At the meeting this week, we got to check out some fun options the others on the crew are adding to their stashes. It is astounding to see how much backcountry technology has improved in the last... few years. (😉 Few decades. Something like that.) 

John and I decided we would be best off marking our top priorities from the packing list, then buying one item each payday, starting with the Most Wanted. So I'm going to add things as we find them. If you have a favorite backpacking item you'd like to share, post it in the comments below! We'd love to see what you love on the trail!

Be encouraged!


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!

Saturday, September 12

Saturday Doings

The boys collected donations this morning to send BSA popcorn to the troops overseas. Now John's nerding with his People. James is doing the school work he couldn't get done during the week, and JakeRabbit is wandering about, pretending to be looking for his copy of Ivanhoe... Z put up the brick molding on the new door. I used the time in town without children to pick up some much needed garments (also decided I need to drop a good 30 pounds and spend all the grocery money on Target's fall line - PONCHOS, people! They have ponchos! ~swoon~), ran laundry, and got in some work.

The Littles played video games until Em wandered in to lie on the couch and stare pitifully at anyone who wandered by as she whispered, "I'm hungry..." (This is a clear case of Video Game Head. There was bacon, pancakes, and nut butter all within arm's reach. She didn't have to languish on the couch. But I'm convinced video games turn my otherwise intelligent children into garden slugs.)

Every few minutes, people switch it up. JakeRabbit runs a load of wash and then plays Modern Warfare 3 with Z. We check with James to see how his Japanese is coming along and he is reminded that he's not, in fact, supposed to be playing TeamFortress2, but is supposed to be doing the work he didn't get done during the week. (This is always a surprise to him, based on the "Oh," he utters when we check.) Jase is loving the goat simulator on his brother's tablet, insisting I watch as his penguin self slides about, or his goat version licks random passersby. It's a gross looking game, but I'll probably see about getting it on my tablet because sometimes you just want to be a giraffe on a trampoline. I'm a little concerned about starving to death, though, since I doubt Video Game Head is limited to just children... But first, some reading and a snack.

The weather is gorgeous. Fall is coming! Tonight's low is in the high 40's, which means if it doesn't rain, there will be coffee on the balcony in the morning! These weekends are perhaps my favorite in the cycle of days. They are quietly busy, relaxed and pleasant.

Be encouraged ~

Wednesday, November 19

Overwhelmed By Stuff

I keep trying to write, but the words that come aren't terribly uplifting. I'm tired. I'm irritable. I want to hire a team of mafia cleaners to come in and eradicate the house of identifying marks. (OK, mainly paper. Paper and stray socks.) They can take the stack of stuff I need to mail with them on the way out and deal with that, too.

Every single problem I have is not a problem. I get that. Doesn't stop me from wanting to go back to bed and read in peace. (Why does Neal Stephenson write such long, engrossing stories? He needs to get into writing short stories. That might help.) But life is good.

James received his Life rank at the Court of Honor this week. He's been working hard on that, and the reality that Eagle is on his plate hit him this week. He's excited/stunned/mildly surprised that it (meaning his entire childhood) happened so quickly. I love that kid.

Em and Jase joined a local My Little Pony club. They made ornaments this month, then played and ate. Perfect. The room was packed with 18 6-8 year-old boys and girls, and it was adorable.

And so, everyone is hunkered down for Winter, which came early and enthusiastically. The kids are hoping this means we'll have snow. I've reminded them that most people who live in the South do so out of a desire to avoid snow, so we don't mention this hope in public. We just fire up the wood stove and enjoy some downtime.

I think I'm going to go burn some stray papers. Maybe socks.


Tuesday, September 23

Tiny Co-Op

I've avoided using a co-op for ten years. Mostly, we just never found one that would fit what we'd need from an outside source. But this year, we have six students who needed Biology. And labs sound like a lot more fun with friends. So three families got together and put together a Tiny Co-op. It's just Biology. And snacks.

The Littles do their thing during the class period (usually begging food off the host of the week). JakeRabbit works on whatever he needs to wrap up before the next library trip, and wanders in to observe. (He's made it fairly clear that I need to plan on doing something similar when he hits high school.) The high school students do their research independently and the labs in pairs.

They have absolutely blown me away with what they're doing. Not just the way they cover the material, but their willingness to discuss topics in depth. And one of our students does some absolutely fantastic lab drawings! I'll see if she will let me take a picture next week so I can share it. All around, it's been a fun reminder that teens are incredibly capable, funny, insightful, and diligent. (Or they can be, when they have the opportunity.)

We're using High School Biology in Your Home, from Bridget Ardoin. The students are given the topic and questions to answer over the course of the week. They can use whatever material they want to do their resource (so the first week we covered the elements of a trustworthy, reputable source). They learn to cite their sources, follow rabbit trails, and fill in the depth of their knowledge as much as they are motivated to. The labs are fantastic. There are enough typos in the printed material that it's a bit distracting, and I'd love to get my hands on fixing them. But the process is sound, and we'll definitely be using her Chemistry program next year.

I hope everyone else is willing to co-op again!

And just for fun, the boys' Troop had a cook-off at the meeting last night. Each patrol had to prepare a trail meal over a camp stove, and then present its meal to the judges. That was hilarious and fantastic. After the judging, the boys ate the evidence. (I didn't get to the camera in time to snap a shot of the full production.) Once again, kids will blow you away if you give them half a chance.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, April 29

Busy Days!

The kids asked for a day at home, since we've had one in the last ten days, but that was for re-packing gear and doing laundry. Not quite the same.

After the storms that ripped through here last night, I think they'll get their wish today. We weathered it just fine, but not everyone did, so as the reports come in, we're looking for opportunities to help and pay forward all the generous care we've received in the past. If you don't mind saying a prayer for the Southeastern US this morning, that would be much appreciated.

James spent a fantastic week in New Mexico, eating, learning, experiencing, and doing.  He ate a lot of new food (mostly Vietnamese and Indian, I think), which thrilled his food-curious heart no end. He Skyped with us on Easter Sunday so Em could show him her dress, and Z and I could put eyes on him in real time. It was a chance to see the tangible benefits of hard work and self-discipline, and to walk away with more knowledge and insight than he arrived with. That's hard to pass up. His team won an award for Creativity and Innovation in Design: they each received a plaque and $50.  We picked up a very happy camper the following week.

Meanwhile, we had a quietly busy week while James was gone. (I spent a lot of time standing in parking lots, waiting for him to come around the back of the Suburban, then realizing he wasn't actually in the parking lot with us. The kids thought that was hilarious.) We went to the annual Earth Day movie (it was Bears this year, and absolutely fantastic) with friends, then shuttled over to the Teen Game Day for a visit and some fun.

The rest of the weekend was taken up with projects - for me, mainly the quarterly changing of the seasonal clothing and updating of the sizes. I realized I have a lot of things in the basement we can pass along, now. They're too small for Em or Jase. Some of them were rather large sizes, to my way of thinking, for me not to have a child wearing them. Things are about to get weird, I suspect. Easter was a lovely day of joyful celebration with church family and local friends. Then I took the kids camping.

We slipped out to DeSoto State Park to enjoy a little camping and exploring. We scampered around Cherokee Rock Village in the fog (fantastic for kids, a wee bit terrifying for mothers), hiked and hiked all over the place, and played at DeSoto Falls (something I've been dying to do for the last five years! It was worth the wait!)

John and Jacob absolutely rock the camp set up action. Em and Jase have found their groove, and they're more help than not at this stage. It could not have gone more smoothly, or been more fun. Even John mentioned that the loading and setting up seemed "freakishly easy". He was worried we'd forgotten something, or left someone. I told him I know the feeling. We did a head count and called it good.
James flew back in on Wednesday as we headed out from DeSoto, and everyone arrived home covered in road grime, exhausted, and happy.

We had Thursday to re-pack, wash clothes, catch up, and rest, for Friday we headed out to the Camporee. That was a truly amazing experience. I sat in with the Rocking Chair Patrol (the adult leaders). Seldom saw the kids except when we ambled over to take pictures. The boys' Troop hosted the Camporee, and these boys were on fire. They were busy and engaged the whole time. They handled everything from administration to direction. They were gracious and encouraging. I think my favorite tidbit of feedback came from one Scout who came panting up to the check-in desk after the Orienteering course and exhaled, "That was hilariously awesome!" Well, that's hard to beat, isn't it?

We slipped out after the camp fire on Saturday night so we could be ready for Sunday's adventure... which requires a post all its own.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, February 25

Huh. That went well.

Oh, look, right after I got all excited about getting to bed early on a regular basis, here I am, up at the witching hour. Oops. The Bigs and I got in late tonight, the bed was full of Littles, and I caved to the siren song of solitude. Tomorrow's going to bring some stout natural consequences. But while I'm up...

The boys attended a Scout meeting tonight with this other Troop. It was... whoa. The difference in this meeting from what we've known as Scouting was astounding (and I'll probably spend the next month kicking myself for not moving them over there four years ago). Wow. They went just to see what they thought, and all three came to me after the meeting and OK'd putting in their memberships. They're all in. They're each in different Patrols - I think Jacob was a little unsure about that, but his brothers assured him that it'll be okay, and that they're still *right there* if he does need them. They reminded him that they were in different Patrols at NYLT, too. 

Pancake breakfast fundraiser at Applebee's in Decatur this Saturday, if anyone is feeling generously inclined toward donating to the boys' efforts to pay for Scout Camp this year! (I did the math on the drive home for three boys, plus getting Jacob geared up, and got just a wee bit queasy thinking about that part, but it'll come together. And for a positive experience, it will be worth it a thousand times over.)

Watched a new show in the quiet time tonight: Zen. It's a BBC America production. Rufus Sewell plays a character who is Not A Villain, which he does very well. The show is spectacular, but since I remember him mostly from his villain roles, I spent most of the first episode waiting for him to bring out the Count Adhemar or Adam the Vampire. He doesn't, and the end result is a delightful police show, as far as I've watched.

School went so well today. I kind of wish we could do a once a week plan and call it good. Everyone is so energetic and enthusiastic (and focused) about one day a week...

Oh, and with the absolutely beautiful weather we've had, today we had lunch on the balcony. It was fantastic, aside from the blinding light. Even with sunglasses on, we ended up shoveling the last bites in as we walked toward the door. I think the general consensus was that we'll try again for breakfast and hold off on eating lunch out there until there's some foliage to help buffer the glare.

Overall, as the Littles would say, "it was a pretty good day".

Kiss those babies!
~ Dy

Wednesday, May 29

That 11th Hour...

Our deadline for submitting the Troop's cancellation for Camp came at noon on Monday. We had no one to fill in. We needed to cancel. Of course, nobody wrote the letter, and normally, I'd be torqued, except that that evening we had friends over. I heard one of the kids (:snort: Kid - he's 18, an Eagle Scout, works his tail off, and is very responsible - but in my head, he's a "kid", I know, I'm getting old and weird) -- anyway, heard him say that he had to leave on X date to get some time in visiting family and friends before Staff had to report at Camp SomethingOrOther. Hmmm...

So... when is Camp SomethingOrOther?

It's the week after yours. (I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically how it played out.)

Would you like an all expenses paid trip to the lovely mountains of Camp TheOneWeGoTo, *and* get to be A Hero for saving Camp? :eyebrow waggle: (Not paraphrasing. I was desperate and gave him the full pitch.)

He laughed at me and said yes. (He really did laugh. I've mentioned he's a great ki-- erm, guy. But also, he said YES!)

So, WOOHOO! Once again, that Blessed 11th Hour came through. We now have two adults for camp and meet all the requirements of the BSA.

That means we should probably consider packing sometime this week...

And, I think I overbought on groceries. The Littles could live for a month on what it takes to feed the Bigs for a couple of days. The last time the Bigs were gone, I cooked one meal and the three of us ate off it for the whole weekend.

But, CAMP! Yay!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, May 27

Gathering for a Pounce

Many (most? all? I should look that up) animals gather themselves together before they pounce. I'm pretty sure this is a mental phenomenon, also. (Though I haven't researched it, because honestly, it's just a picture in my head of how I feel before we have to tackle something big. So it could just be us.)

Anyway, we've had a busy week or so, and neither of us gathered for it, so it's been more of a swatting than a pouncing. Z ran out of steam on the soffits as he got farther around the back of the house and started running into rotted wood on the frame. And more brick work (not our favorite thing to do, regardless). It's been a week of sawzall work and framing, mortar and priming. It'll be good, in the end, and solid. But... nasty things fall out of the eaves when you start sawing on them. *gag*

Our Scout Troop had a weird confluence of TDY assignments for all our adults, and we found ourselves two weeks out from camp with only one Adult leader able to go. It's been a week with a flurry of emails, brainstorming, and stress. We were hoping to get information on a provisional troop arrangement at the camp, or perhaps to have the boys and our one adult appended to another troop for the week, but the camp office isn't open yet, the lady we generally deal with is on vacation, and we're having a devil of a time making headway. I could to go, if we could come up with a way to hide three bouncy Littles in camp for a week. So far, no brilliant ideas on that front. So it looks like the boys may miss scout camp this year.

Our Webelos built bat boxes. That was a "Z to the rescue" kind of thing. He's incredible with the kids - they learn so much from him, and they have fun doing it. Once the cedar dries out a bit, and they don't weigh so much, the boys will finish them out and get them hung. Based on the volume of mosquitoes we have this year, I'm betting we'll have the fattest bats in the state, and plenty of them.

I lost my glasses at some point last week. The Suburban was spotless. The house was immaculate. Still no glasses. Then I realized we hadn't tackled the Baby Dragon Lair. We waded through the paper treasure and bead bullion and other valuables in the hoard. I almost didn't do it. It's daunting for a non-crafty person to delve into an artist's space. Especially when she's small and has a minion. And, dragons. But I'm glad I did. The glasses were there, on a pony. Under some homemade pillows (paper, cotton balls, and staples). I also found my stapler.

On a related note, as much as I want to do the ceiling next, that child needs a non-carpeted room to work in. I'm thinking gunite. If you have ideas, toss them up on Pinterest. I'll be researching next week.

And graduations! We've had three beautiful, amazing young people in our lives who graduated from high school this week. Every one of them is the kind of person you can't wait to turn loose on the world: kind, hard working, generous, thoughtful, upright young people. I know their paths won't always be easy, but we are so very proud of them and excited for them to get out there and share themselves with the world. When people complain about "kids these days", I want to share these kids with them, so they'll know what to look for. They're there. And they're fantastic!

Kiss those babies, no matter how big!

Saturday, December 8

Spoke too soon.

No pictures. I can't find the camera!

It's just been that sort of week, really. Thankfully, it's over. And while I'm bummed about the camera going missing (although it's *got* to be here, somewhere -- it's just got to be -- we had it at the Troop Christmas Party, then came home... didn't go anywhere else or do anything else. It's crazy.) -- really, it's not going to upend our world. We have a lot to be glad for, and we are. (Although I did push pretty hard on the Clean As You Look For It rule, and the house is quite tidy, now.)

Zorak and the boys got all the brick off the wall, got the sheathing prepped, the bricks cleaned, and started re-bricking where it needs to have a wall. That's crazy-scary, watching that. Brick dust is tremendous, and duct tape is a total godsend for sealing off leaks and keeping the dust out of the house. Bless the engineers at Johnson & Johnson. (As a side note, I read several articles that stated the Germans called it Panzertape. Now that's an endorsement, isn't it? Good stuff, by any name.) We ran out of mortar today, but will get some tomorrow, and hope to have it done by the end of this weekend.

EmBaby has begun to suspect that we're trying to get out of Christmas decorating. (She asked the other day, "Are we having a tree this year? Should we just decorate the bookshelves?") I guess we do need to put that on the to-do list for this week. The kids haven't exactly nixed the idea of cutting their own tree again this year, but they haven't made eye contact when we've brought it up, either. Z and I figure this may be the year to buy a replacement tree. I geeked out over one last week that has little, fake pine cones on it. James and the littles were with me, and it's not clear whether they thought I was joking or not. (I wasn't. It's truly just ugly enough to be wonderful! Whimsical! Perfect!)

Meanwhile, we're still loving the new arrangement. EmBaby did her schoolwork in the Dining Room. We aren't even doing school this week! We need some actual furniture for the living room, now that it's the size of a living room, but that will come. Eventually, we get things done.

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.


Thursday, November 8

A New Plan, A Better Plan

If I only post every four weeks, I can re-tread that Hair Day post and get a lot of miles out of it, can't I? But that defeats the point of blogging, and I doubt very much the children would appreciate the digital version of their family album being a list of Mom's weird appointments.

OK. Fine.

I was busy wallowing in October. Every blessed under-80-degree-but-not-below-40 moment of it. It was spectacular. Coffee on the balcony in the mornings (until the acorns began falling - then I had to bring it back in because the welts were unseemly, and so was the swearing), windows wide open and that delicious combination of sweatshirts, shorts, and flip flops that I just can't convince myself to try any other time of year.

The boys Scout Troop finally went backpacking in October. I got to go, since Zorak isn't much on the backpacking thing. It's hard to feel like you're taking one for the team when you're as giddy over going as your spouse is over not having to go. We spent two nights in the Sipsey Wilderness, camped creekside, slept under the magnificent pine and hardwood canopy... didn't loose anybody or have to build a travois! You just can't ask for a better backpacking trip than that.

We built the stairs to the balcony in October. They are exquisite. And now, they're partially stained, to match the partially stained balcony. As soon as the treads weather up a bit, it will look like it was all intentional. (One might suggest we just stain the decking and treads, but we missed the window and there are leaves... so many leaves. We'll have three days in March where the leaves aren't falling and the pollen hasn't descended on everything yet. Maybe then.)

The Volvo died in October, and we spent most of the month with only one car. That part? Not such a great time. But it could have been worse. There was never any need to call in reinforcements for a trip to the ER. Zorak took it to the auto hobby shop, where George The Car Magician pulled a rabbit out from under the hood and *poof*, it started again. (Not an actual rabbit, but it might as well have been. We still have no idea how he fixed it.)

We felled a gigantic tree that died this year. Nature makes some impressive noises. We gave thanks, split the wood, saved a stump to use for knife throwing, and gave a target stump to Pastor's boys. I'm sure Pastor's wife was thrilled. (She's so patient with us.) The boys dug it, though.

We took the steel wool and stove black to the wood stove. If you've never cleaned up a cast iron stove using that stuff, you've got to try it. I felt like a cross between Ma Ingalls and Ron Popeil.

Then we careened wildly into November, voted, prepped for the kitchen window project, started rehabbing my old pickup, and tonight enjoyed the first fire of the year.

Not bad. Not bad, at all.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, October 10

It's Hair Day!

How banal. And yet, it's all I've got. But it's enough.

Susan of the Magnificent Shears is my hero. She handles Jacob's crazy, multi-textured, vari-directional hair like it's the most natural thing in the world. I love to watch her work. I love that she doesn't get halfway around his head and look suddenly lost, as if she'd just woken up and isn't sure how she got there. From start to finish, she's on it, and she owns it, and he walks out of there looking (and feeling) like he's off to his next Jr. GQ shoot. Every time. She is amazing.

I'm still thisclose to asking for a pixie cut. Which I shall then dye peroxide blonde, so that we can find the ticks easily. Obviously, Zorak's trying hard not to make eye contact or say anything that might drive me over the edge while I'm mid-panic. But the Scouts are going backpacking next weekend, and I just don't know that I want to tackle another episode with this much hair. So I'll talk to Susan the Magnificent. She'll be able to talk me down and do something with it. I wonder how bad an idea it is to backpack on Xanax?

Then we're off to buy more garlic, some duct tape, a bottle of Skin-So-Soft, a pair of good tweezers, and more Tea Tree Oil.


Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 8

A Day Out

The Birmingham Zoo hosted its annual Tiger Cub Safari today. We'd not been before, and we realized that none of the younger three have ever been to a zoo, and the older two don't remember being to one, so we decided to go and make a day of it. Zorak decided to put off home projects for the day and come along, and I'm so glad he did. We really, thoroughly enjoyed the day.

The weather was a bit chilly, but the day itself was gorgeous. After working hard the past week, we were all ready to get a little goofy and have some fun.

The kids are really the best. I love traveling with them. They not only pose willingly for goofy shots, but suggest some fun ones, too.

Of course, by the time we got home, everyone was bushed, so the kids hit the hay and Z and I got some time to sit and watch a movie, make plans, and drink coffee. It was like ending the day with a fun little mini-date. I'm glad we went for it, and look forward to maybe making it a tradition to have a day out, just doing something fun together, every couple of months.

I wonder if we'll be ready to get back to work tomorrow, or if we'll want to lounge around, thinking up new places to go?

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, October 6

Sweater Weather!

It never got above 60 in the house today! I had all the windows open and made everyone put on sweaters when they complained about the cold. It was glorious. (The odds that it'll be warm enough to cook outside at Christmas are pretty high, so I have to grab it while I can. I may not be able to get away with wearing a sweater again until our mid-January cold snap, and by then, the windows will be sealed up tight.) Jacob asked for soup, so I'll put some bones in the crockpot to simmer overnight and we'll enjoy a lovely stock for soup tomorrow! He knows how to get in on the excitement, that one does.

We got in a great mix of academics and general grunt work this week. ("Great" being a purely subjective term. But they read and talked a lot, and we stayed on target with school. Plus, the basement looks magnificent, the Suburban is full of donations and things to go to friends, and the trash haul is going to be massive this week -- so if you're grading with a Mom Rubric, it was Great!)

And, you know how I mentioned that the boys had a blast on their ride? They've talked about it, shared stories from it, gushed about the things they loved, planned for the next one, brainstormed some amazing route ideas -- all on their own. All week long, they've been at it. I've received texts from parents telling me what fun their sons had, too. But at the meeting this week, when the SM asked for feedback from the boys, it was like they were all surprised there was a quiz and they didn't know what to say. So the only feedback he got was, "The hamburgers were good." :sigh: Really? Well, so much for breaking the inertia. I don't know how much support we'll be able to maintain for completing the badge as a group. I have asked some trusted friends what that is (that weird Beavis-ization of the man children that occurs the minute they walk into the Scout meeting - because it happens more often than not), and several of them swear it's normal for this age, and that they do get over it. I don't care so much about the normal part, but so help me, if they don't get over it soon I'm going to start drinking before we get to the meetings. And in the meantime, if any boy wants to ride, we'll ride. That's just how we roll. Er, ride. Whatever.

And - hey, we have a rooster! Actually, two confirmed roosters, and it sounds like we may have three or more, which would be a bit of a glitch on the hatchery's part, considering we ordered the all-hen layer mix. But they're fun and loud and healthy. Thank God for healthy! Oy. And so beautiful! James started looking up info today on how to get into showing chickens. There's a 4-H club somewhere, I'm sure - not here, but nearby. Anyway, I'm leaving it up to him. If he wants to show chickens, and is willing to do the legwork to get started (and handle them), then we'll buy a chicken hauler (or... a what? Let's hope he figures out how best to transport chickens) and we'll give it a shot. Still no eggs, though. I really hope we didn't end up with 19 roosters...

Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 1

Happy October!

Not that there's anything particularly spectacular about October 1. It's a beautiful, wet, grey morning here, though. And that's happy-making. Plus there's coffee, which is always a reason to celebrate.

The Bigs had their overnight bike trip this weekend. They biked the Chief Ladiga Trail, from the Esom Hill Trailhead to Anniston, AL. 33 mi., broken up over two days. So, not a huge stretch as far as effort goes, but a beautiful change from the norm (which is riding their bikes from the camp site to the candy shop at Tannehill State Park once a year). The weather held out beautifully, and didn't start with the inundating rain until after they'd reached the end, loaded the bikes, and headed homewars. (I stared at the weather-in-motion radar map until my eyes bled, trying to will the storms to GO AROUND!! Don't think it worked, but that won't stop me from trying it again next time they head out, I'm sure.) They had a blast, overall, which we figured they would. And from what I've heard, the adults who went enjoyed it, too. (I'm so glad! It stinks to be the guy who planned The Nightmare Trip - those stories are hard to live down.)

It's good to have them home again. Although I'm sure when they get up and see the next two weeks' planner pages all filled in and ready to go, they may not be as excited as I am!

Kiss those babies!