Showing posts with label summer fun. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer fun. Show all posts

Friday, July 28

Vibrams on the Trail

So, as I've mentioned before, I wore my Vibrams Five Fingers to Philmont. As I've also mentioned before (although I cannot find that post now, so perhaps I mentioned it in a backpacking forum?), there seemed to be precious little information about how well they work as shared by the people who actually wore them and plenty of shared opinions by people who saw others wearing them and had decided that it was stupid no matter what the wearers had said. So, I wanted to chime in with my .02, having done it first hand.

Overall, they were magnificent. Not one blister, no twisted ankles, no particularly sore feet. Actually, for most of the trek, my feet were the only things that weren't sore. The rest was poor chiropractic care, improperly adjusted pack, and my general propensity to run into things. I will be wearing these on the Pinhoti, the AT, and, if I ever get back that way again, these puppies are coming with me to Havasupai.

Pros:
Lightweight. I wore my new ones on the trail and took my old favorites for in camp. So lightweight!

Easy on/easy off. This is particularly helpful when you're getting and out of your tent, but it's an all-around benefit.

Excellent feedback. I knew before I transferred my weight to my forward foot whether my footing was sure enough to support me. I truly suspect this impacts the likelihood of twisting an ankle on the trail, protecting your feet by preventative measures. So even with the marked lack of ankle support, these are my favorite trail shoes.

Comfortable. Although I took my old pair to wear in camp, I never felt the need to take off my trail shoes once we got to camp. There was one night that we had a particularly damp campsite (at Pueblano) and we had crossed a stream little earlier, so the trail pair weren't dry by morning. I just clipped them to my bag and hiked that day in the older pair.

Quick drying - we crossed so many streams, and I could just walk through them and keep going without having to stop to change out socks or even shoes. With the exception of the freakishly moist camp mentioned above, they always dried quickly.

Bouldering. Ohhh, this was fun. The Tooth of Time, and the trail to the ridge were SO easy with the Vibrams. I tucked my poles away and scrabbled around like a rock squirrel, even with my pack on. It was glorious. Love. These. Shoes.

Cons:
The stench. Lord have mercy, these things stink! I would say they stink after 10 days on the trail, but they stank at the end of the first day. WHEW!

Wet clay - if you go during monsoon season, you're just going to ski down the switchbacks. Use your poles and relax for the ride. I pretty much skied all the way into the Ute Gulch Commissary. That was a little bit harrowing, but once I realized I wasn't going to die, it was fun. I don't know that hiking boots or anything else would handle the slick bentonite clay any better, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I did want to mention that this was A Thing.

Going downhill, fully-loaded, fast. The last day of our trek, we left Upper Clark Fork and trekked 12.5 miles out of the canyon, over the Tooth of Time, and down the Trail of Tears. Because our crew did not believe in getting up and out quickly, we were on the ridge with the afternoon monsoon storms at our backs coming down the Trail of Tears. You do not want to be on that slope in the middle of a thunderstorm, where the tallest thing around is you, and we Advisors felt the need to get the boys off the ridge pronto. So we absolutely booked it down that last few miles. With a fully loaded backpack. My toes were a bit grouchy after that leg. Not enough to negate the benefits, but again, A Thing. And if I'm going to share my experience, I want to share all of it.

Miscellany:

I don't normally wear socks with my Vibrams, but I did buy some Injinji sock liners for this trek. (Not an affiliate link. I just love being able to include pictures.) They made the shoes a titch tight, since I hadn't bought them with liners in mind, but not uncomfortable and the shoes stretched quickly to accommodate the difference. They kept my toes warm in the damp, cool mornings, and they dried fairly well. Plus, they feel good.

Someone at Base Camp mentioned Swiss Socks. I'd like to try those out at some point, too.

If you do plan to wear Vibrams on a trek of any kind, get them well ahead of time. Train in them. Lounge in them. Wander in them. Wear them, break yourself in to them, get to know them. The learning curve is longer than with Just Any New Shoe. Once you've got the hang of them, though, they're very accommodating and straightforward. Know how they work for you, and what you can expect from them in performance. Then get a new pair (I went with the same style, same size, just to limit the variables, but I don't know that it mattered in performance) for the trail.

I hope this was helpful.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Sunday, July 23

Headway!

I have a den full of boxes and three empty book cases! We gave away one book case, and I hope to give away more this weekend. We learned a few things:

* If you want to get kids to read books, have them take books off a shelf to put in boxes. We got SO much reading done today! Like they discovered a secret library I'd been holding out on. It was hilarious.

* When your 18yo and your 11yo curl up on the couch to look at Rembrandt pictures together, you really can't care that they aren't working. (I already knew this, but it was a beautiful reminder.)

* One book case can hold a LOT of books! Wow, we are richly blessed with books.

* Dust is insidious.

* I'm wondering if white book cases would mitigate some of the room-shrinking effect... but then I wonder how bad it would look when they get dirty... then I spin around in circles like Gayle Waters-Waters preparing for company. So. No actual decisions, and I'm a little dizzy, now.

* Also, I need a vertically-capable roomba. Do those exist? If not, why not? I can't be the only person who's thought of asking Santa to look into this.

* And finally, we really should have gotten a storage shed before we started boxing things up. But, you live and learn. It'll be fine.

The nice part is that nobody minds working inside when it's hot 'n sticky out there! Plus, the Popsicles don't melt so quickly if you're indoors! Win!

Tomorrow's task will be the kitchen. It's already pretty tight, so I'm thinking it will be an easy day. Also, it's only going to be in the high 80's tomorrow! So that's downright doable!

Be encouraged!

Dy

Saturday, July 1

Good Saturday Morning!

It is T-2 until liftoff! How ridiculously exciting!

The Littles and I visited Miri and the Babies yesterday. She set it up for them to make homemade wikki stix, which was very cool and I think we're going to have to do that again in the future! The kids played while we visited, and although I really didn't want to run more errands yesterday, it was nice to do something for the Littles. And a little something for me, getting to spend time with a sweet friend.

While we were in town, we ran errands, as well. Found stuff sacks large enough to use as bear bag bags (which is awesome, thank you, Cabela's!) And lashing straps for John's pack (although I should have bought the ones at Walmart last week, to be honest - longer and less expensive for the same material, there). Live and learn.

Today, John and I will do the final pack up and make sure everything is secure, there's room for additional troop gear and the tents, and see if we've forgotten anything. Honestly, I've got food, I've got a good sleeping pad (and a repair kit), and I've got proper clothing. Anything beyond that is gravy at this point. We're ready to hit the trail.

Oh! My new Vibrams came in yesterday, too! I realized that I've trained in this one pair the whole time, plus our teen hikes, plus I wear them to the river, to the store, to work on the property... It's been a good year! The last thing I wanted, however, was to have a blowout on the trail and get stuck buying boots at the camp after I've done all my training in these. So I ordered the same size, style, and brand that I've been wearing. They look so pretty and new! And, seeing them side-by-side, I was glad I got another pair! The soles on my first pair are not as, erm, healthy as they seemed. Fortunately, once you're used to wearing Vibrams (which can take some time), the shoes themselves don't have the break-in period for a new pair that traditional shoes require, so they should be good to go by the end of this week. I'm taking the old ones as camp shoes and back up, though. Figure they deserve to see the desert mountains one more time.

Gotta pack for Circe today, too, and get my suitcase to a friend. She's going to meet me there with it so I'm not traveling with a week's worth of business attire to Philmont! I need to find her something that says, "I do not know what I'd do without you!" Maybe a mug that literally says that. But I'd have to fill it with gold bullion or Amazon gift cards or something, because she's really that amazing. And not just for her mad luggage hauling skills, either!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, June 26

*POOF* Busy weekend!

I thought for sure I'd posted over the weekend, but no. Know what else I didn't do? Sleep. Clearly, I should have thought things through a bit better.

Although, to be honest, I don't know where to cut anything, or how to make it happen in a sane way. It feels like we're holding everything together with surface tension at the moment, and I'm afraid if we poke it, the mess is going to be enormous.

Friday, we ran errands, we cleaned the house, we had a little Come to Jesus about the condition of the house, and we worked on the Volvo some. Normal stuff. The Volvo wasn't yet up and running that evening, so Z stayed up to retrieve one of the boys from his shift at Hamacon.

Saturday was full of trek prep, home repairs, more errands, more Hamacon retrieval, Volvo work, and a show at the VBC (Jacob walked, so that was 4:00-9:30PM, there).

Sunday, we had worship, which was fantastic. And pot luck, which is always restful. I am thankful we can do that. Then I had to be at a casting (nothing glamorous, just helping with sign-in -- although I did get to dance and snuggle with a precious baby for most of it, freeing up her parents to be more productive than I could be - that was a win), and Z took the kids to a birthday celebration for a lovely young woman we know. I headed over after my shift at the casting and passed the keys to John. He left for work. James arrived at some point and...

We all sat. We sat and visited and just did. not. move. It was glorious. We stayed WAY too late, and I feel a little guilty about that; however, it really was glorious to just be among kind people, chatting about hopeful things, listening to kids laugh and talk. Balm for the soul, right there. Also, how can I cut *that* out in exchange for sleep? That was just as rejuvenating as anything else we could have done.

Again, thankful.

There is so much I am thankful for, amidst the exhaustion.

This morning, I tried the Fat Coffee I'd purchased for the trek. (Realized, after a discussion with someone else about how coconut oil just, erm, tears through them, that I ought to try some NOW for the first time, rather than on the trail.) It tastes like 1970's-era instant decaf. So, not exactly something I'll look forward to on the trail, but I'm working up some kind of nostalgic affection for it. We'll see how that goes.

This afternoon I head in for six-month labs at the cancer center. Praying for a clear report. Actually, if you want to be very specific about it, I'm praying for labs that are good enough that we can punt the next scan another six months further down the road. So, if you're up for it, that'd be magnificent! There's more to the day, but that's all I'm focused on at the moment.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, June 22

AAAIIIGHHHHH!

So, I'll be upfront with you... I'm a little nervous about this trip. I'm excited, sure. It's going to be gorgeous and amazing. Just seeing the boys' reactions to the new terrain and their experience - WOW. And I'm fairly certain that they're going to need to drug me to get me back in the van to come back to the humidity when it's over. But I'm also nervous, and it's manifesting in weird ways.

For instance, I developed an overwhelming concern that I was going to fall off a cliff, or into an arroyo and - no, not die, but catch my wedding ring on a mesquite branch on the way down and lose my finger. I mean, I could die. Gravity is a harsh mistress and I'm not graceful even when I'm not entirely at her mercy. But it wasn't the fear of plummeting to my death that has kept me up at night (or even of getting impaled by a mesquite branch, although now that I think of it...); it was the fear of having to hike out with my finger in a cooler. So I fixed it.


That puppy will tear right off, I hope! Now I can move on to other worrisome things...

Like running out of food on the trail. I got my meals divvied up and vacuum sealed today. The breakfast bar looks like I'm braced for an orienteering course at an orphanage right now. In spite of months of research, running the numbers, eyeballing the menu, cross-checking everything against the norm, plus adding 20% for error, I just can't quite trust that I'm not going to run out of food and get stuck sucking down pop tarts and being thankful for it. (So I just ordered an entire POUND of Pili Nuts. See how this is unfolding?) Man, you give a girl a vacuum sealer and she goes nuts.

Heh. Nuts.

Yeah, I'm tired.

But now that the food and the ring have been addressed, maybe I can get some decent sleep, yeah? And work on my coping mechanisms. That would probably also be beneficial. But for now, I have nuts and silicon and am feeling a little better.

Be encouraged!

~Dy

Sunday, June 18

SO, I didn't die.

That's the end goal, there, and I won. Yay!

THE GOOD:

1. I didn't die!

2. I didn't panic, go limp and refuse to move. (That was a serious consideration at one point.)

3. My Five Fingers are da'bomb! I love these things more than any gear I have ever owned in. my. life.

4. I did the first 10 miles fasted, and those were amazing miles. Most of our day hikes at Philmont are going to be around 10 miles, so I'm feeling uber-confident that I can do this and hold my head up at the end. (Especially once you account for drier air, lower temps, and fewer ticks. Hallelujah!)


THE BAD:

1. Ticks. Lord, have mercy, we never left the trail and there were ticks everywhere.

2. The weather. I wouldn't choose to hike in that heat or humidity for fun, ever. Ever ever. Ugh. Honestly, I am surprised they went through with it in these conditions. It was awful.

3. I haven't bought hiking clothes that fit, and nothing I own that stays up is appropriate for hiking, so I stole James' BDU pants and wore those - they were awesome for keeping the ticks out, but they did not help with the heat or the humidity. Blech.

4. I didn't eat enough when we stopped for lunch (in my head, we had more time to eat, and so I didn't just stuff it in there like it turns out I should have) and I did run dead out of energy around mile 13 or so. It was like watching a drunk stumble forlornly through the woods.

THE UGLY:

1. I am so slow. Like, embarrassingly slow. I can match the cadence, but my stride is tiny, like I'm hobbled or something. I don't know what that's all about, or when it happened. But gosh.

2. I slept poorly the night before, fretting over ticks (which turned out to be TOTALLY JUSTIFIABLE). So that didn't help, any. Also, sometimes I hate being right.

3. But mostly, I realized I need to adjust my pace quite a bit to hang with the Scouts. They go all-out on speed for shorter stints, stop just long enough to catch their breath, and then back at it. This means they stop a lot (and stopping just kills me - momentum, rhythm, slog, focus, all gone), and none of the stops are truly restful, which kind of sucks the fun out of being on the trail. It's like driving somewhere with someone who won't stop at a Buc-ee's just because, or pull over for coffee when you're out. So, I have two weeks to get a grip on that.

******

Today, James and I figured out how to adjust my old Alpine Contour III! That was exciting! I did not realize just how anxious I was about the pack issue until we got it put right. It was as if every care I had in the world melted away. (At least for a little while.)

The rest of our gear should be in tomorrow and then we're just down to a few dodads and miscellany. I am really excited about this trip!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, June 16

No Big News

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

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

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

*whimper*

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

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!

~Dy

Friday, August 14

The Last Hurrah of Summer

Every night, Em asks me a series of questions. It's her Bedtime Catechism. What day is tomorrow? What are we doing tomorrow? Do I have to get up early? What's the temperature supposed to be? Can I read in bed? (And by "read", she means "craft". We both know this.)

It makes her a little bit batty that starting in June, my response to the temperature question is, "hot". It's going to be hot from now until October. "But WHY can't you look it up?" Because it's August in the South, baby girl. It just depresses me to see the actual numbers. Just plan on Swelteringly, Wiltingly Hot, and if it happens to be only moderately hot, or perhaps not sweltering, well, that's like a special surprise. She remains unconvinced, but every afternoon she says, "Yeah, you were right. It's hot." I'm excited for the first forecast day in the 70's - not just because the 70's are pretty awesome after a hot summer, but to see her face when I have a legit answer.

The public schools are back in session this week. As of yesterday, all of our county schools were up and running. But the local water park stays open until today before switching to the weekends-only schedule to wrap up the season, so we went yesterday to enjoy having the place to ourselves - along with another hundred or so homeschoolers, which is a bit of a tradition. It's such a tight-knit community that we ran into someone we know at every spot we landed, and the kids met new friends, too. I love the non-traditional back to school photos (bad lighting, random pose, and all):


We're on the far side of this project for the older two. I can't quite grasp how that can be, and yet, there they are - taller than I am, learning to drive, branching out in amazing, fascinating, and sometimes terrifying ways... It reminds me to enjoy the bedtime litany and listening to books I don't care for, because it won't take much time at all before Em and Jase are taller than I am, learning to drive, and branching out...

Today, it's going to be moderately hot. What a pleasant surprise. Perhaps we should go enjoy one last hurrah...

Be encouraged,
~Dy

Wednesday, September 3

My Favorite Things

One of the best things about living in Northern Alabama is the ready access to water. My children think of this simply as "going outside to play". They have no idea why I get giddy every time I see water. (Yes, ten years of living here and it still thrills me. Every time.)


The weather has been lovely enough for water activity, and this is a little spot we found a few weeks back and just had to check out with our hiking group. What a pleasant surprise! The grounds are clean, the area is well-maintained, and although everyone had on shoes, nobody ran across stray glass or hooks. (Still, wear your shoes in the river, kids.)


There was a child on the rope when we snapped this shot. Kind of looks like the Kraken is emerging, there, though, doesn't it? Or diving. I promise it wasn't as creepy as it reads. Someone (either James or I) is slow on the trigger, and I have quite a few pictures very much like this - swaying rope, no child, churning water. We left with the same number of children we arrived with, however, and that wrapped up the first year of hiking group with a stellar record of no lost children and no ER visits directly related to the hikes!


Today, mid-way through what has turned out to be a particularly grueling week, I've found myself trying to figure out when we can slip away for another morning's play before the weather turns cool again. Just... one more... please? I'd bet the kids are up for it. We just have to convince the schedule to give a little.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Monday, September 1

As You Like It

Every year, I remember that Nashville has a Shakespeare in the Park performance. Usually, I remember this the week after the last performance. So this year, we invited friends (accountability), picked a date (procrastination), and we went! I am so glad we did.


It was absolutely fantastic. We took our blankets and spread out on the grass near the front of the stage. This is probably my favorite way to watch live theater, now. It was a long day, with the 2-hour drive each way, but that was made more fun with friends. It was, without a doubt, absolutely worth it, though.

Everything about this performance by the Nashville Shakespeare Festival was delightful and engaging, but one thing I hadn't thought about before hand was the music. This is *Nashville*! The music blew us all away. At first, we didn't think the actors on stage were singing live. It was too good. Then we realized that's exactly what they were doing. So that was like getting a whole other performance on top of the Shakespeare.


I would have better pictures, but they asked us not to take pictures during the performance (understandable), and we were just having too much fun visiting, watching, laughing, and eating during the time we could take photos.

Actually, most of the pictures I did get centered around the food. They had Thai, Egyptian, and BBQ. Oh, how much we spent trying a little of everything! I'm so glad my kids are adventurous eaters. And we do love some food truck food. (As an aside, anybody ever call them "roach coaches"? I get that that's considered derogatory, but we always meant it affectionately. I'm working very hard on not squealing with delight, "Oh! Let's see what's at the roach coach!" when we pull into a venue and see the trucks lined up. But I do still say it on the inside.)


So, yes, Mr. Shakespeare, we did like it. We liked it very much. From the atmosphere to the production to the food trucks, this was one of our favorite outings of 2014 so far.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Friday, July 11

We're Almost Done... Peeling

Dang. We went on a float trip on Saturday. It was supposed to be a four hour float trip that included a stop mid-way for lunch and time to play in the water. How cool is that?


But the river was low.


It was so low that the trip took seven hours. Yikes!


Now, I'm not known for being the most prepared mom in the world on the best of days. Most of the time, we're just kind of winging it, glancing at one another to make sure we're all still upright. I figure if I account for food and hydration, and return with approximately the same number of children I left with, it was a good day. (We didn't even lose anyone to that man eating tree on the right!)


But that day, we had a friend's child with us. So I was on super good behavior. I made everyone spritz up with sunblock, reminded everyone to drink, reapplied sunblock just before we got in the river... man, I was rocking this responsibility thing!  We even remembered to wear sneakers to protect our feet (and, evidently, to host mayflies, which was a little weird, as they were rather distracted with mating and didn't seem to care what they landed on to do it).


Except... we were good for four hours of sun. Not seven.

And my friend had told me that she'd sprayed her son down very well. Since she's Super Responsible, I didn't make him re-do his before we got in the water. But she didn't expect that he'd take his swim shirt off, so she didn't do his back. And I didn't know that.

:hangs head in shame:

I BURNT SOMEONE ELSE'S CHILD!

Of course, the rest of us got fairly well toasted, too. So, you know, at least I'm liberally negligent.

Anyway, we have another float trip tomorrow. I bought more sunblock (higher SPF, too). And I bought two containers of it - one of them is going to live in my bag. It may take me until the last of my children is out of the house, but I WILL get the hang of this gig. I swear I will.

(And we did have a blast on this outing. Even with the burns and the occasional need to lift our floats and duck walk across the shoals. For which there are no pictures. Because I was waddling along with everyone else.)

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Sunday, June 8

Starting to Feel It...

The heat, that is. It's been a wet, wet Spring, and that means 85 degrees feels significantly less do-able than 70 did. Stepping outside feels like a sort of sauna-meets-obstacle-course. Which is fine if you have athletic ability and... gills. For mere mortals, however, it's a little tricky.


Not stopping us, though!

This weekend was the annual Howard Hill Southern Traditional Archery Tournament. (This is commonly shortened to the "Howard Hill Shoot", and for the purposes of this post will be, "the shoot".) This shoot has been a dream of Z's for years. Back when we lived in the desert Southwest, it was one of those Someday things - too far away to be plausible for two broke kids, but cool enough to merit a standing spot on the list anyway. But now? Now we're less than two hours away from it!


And we all have bows again! So, of course we had to go! Ward came, and some other friends came. It was hot. It was humid. The sun shone, and the atmosphere was fun. The boys shot,



and shot...


Em and Jase hung in there for the whole trail (thank you, hiking group!),


...and I have clearly not lost the ability to laugh at myself.


Z was in his happy spot. It was a good day in our little world.

Oh! We got to see Byron Ferguson in action! AND we got to meet G. Fred Asbell! (If you're into traditional archery at all, you know why this is cool. If you're not, it's the equivalent of Classical homeschoolers getting to watch Andrew Kern lead a socratic discussion *and* visit with Martin Cothran. Very cool.) And, just like every time I get to see Kern and Cothran, I walked off yesterday in a happy haze without getting any pictures. But it happened. And it was awesome. Everyone's got next year's shoot penciled in.

Because of the rain, we didn't go down Friday, and had a spare day on our hands. The Huntsville and Madison Anime Convention (HAMACON) opened, so I took those who like it enough to spend their own money on admission, and we spent a surprisingly fun day at the convention center. Parent Passes are free, too! That was a pleasant bonus.


There was some incredible art, neat activities, special panels and discussions. There were also regular showings of interesting (either new, or particularly noteworthy, or unique) anime. The gentleman running the projector took the time to give introductions, insights, and some Q&A for the audience. We had fun. Nerdy, nerdy fun.


And, we got a cat. His name is Homer, in honor of the Homer Ball. He came home with the boys after a hike on Z's birthday.  (Z has never wanted a cat. Hence, the name.)


I think he's comfortable here.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Monday, August 20

Not Like Any August, Ever

I hesitate to say anything, but this August has *rocked* in Northern Alabama. Temps have remained in the nearly-reasonable 90's, the humidity hasn't gone over 100% more than maybe twice*, and so far nothing has landed on the house or the car! Someone's been Very Good, I suspect. Wow.

So we've been braving the out-of-doors more this year -- going to the river, on hikes, to the park, canoeing. We didn't spend nearly as much time at the water park this Summer as I'd hoped to, but some of that was because we weren't sweltering and desperate for relief the whole time. (June. June was awful. But after that, Mother Nature backed off the ire and we recovered.) We did get some good use out of it, though. I only lost one child, one time (which is pretty darned good, all things considered), and nobody got burnt at all this summer! No, I take that back. Zorak and the boys all got sunburned shins on a canoe trip with the Scouts a couple of weeks back. But that wasn't on my watch, so I don't have to claim it. BOOYAH! First time, ever!

We're in Week 5 at school, and so far, we're... pretty darned slow. Wow. We seem busy. We feel busy. But we're not laying tracks like we'd thought. So today, the kids brainstormed a new schedule, to be implemented tomorrow morning. No clue how it's going to go, but finding out is half the adventure, right? (That face you just made? Same one they made when I used that phrase this morning.) In all, though, it's going really well. EmBaby's reading more fluidly - her accent is killing us in the phonics, but she's starting to clear those hurdles. (I've never had one with an accent before. This is a whole new ballgame!) Jacob's just rolling through it to get to the books. I can't keep him in books. (Yeah, I know. Third child this age, you'd think he'd be inundated. I guess not.) John finally got a good callous from playing guitar. He feels legit, now, and it's given him a renewed vigor in many areas. And James is kicking into high gear is so many areas. Mostly after 11:30 or so in the morning, but once he's caught a gear, he can *go*.

For me, the big excitement so far was hearing John announce that he *likes* Latin. One day, Dwane Thomas at Visual Latin, and the good folks at Memoria Press (thank you for First Form!) will receive cookies, or brownies, or a copy of someone's NLE results with a thank you note. That's some crazy joy, there.

And the rest of Summer? Well, things don't always go as planned. We did get the sand - uh, this past Saturday. The windows we'd been putting in, one at a time, all went on clearance (not to be re-stocked  - ACK!) so we snagged all we needed in one size, and we now have new windows along the whole front of the house. We'll be eating beans and rice for the next three months, but the marked improvement in insulation is worth it already.

Oh, and okra! Our mad gardening skills have once again yielded insane amounts of okra. Not much else - maybe one cucumber, a handful of squash, two and a half tomatoes... we'll spend the Autumn pickling okra and giving thanks that we do not have to rely solely on what we grew for Winter sustenance. Again. Amen.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

* Tongue in cheek. Mostly.

Wednesday, June 27

The Push Continues

We're still pushing hard to get our affairs in order. The house-cleaning project will probably continue for another couple of months, as we freshen paint and finish the details on projects that stagnated once they hit "functional". (Our Family Motto seems to be: It Doesn't Have to Be Pretty to Be Functional ~or, more accurately, If It's Functional, That's As Good As It's Gonna Get. I need to see about getting that changed before we get to the point of ordering engraved items.)

After James' last physical, his doctor had suggested some strength training to help combat the growing pains he's experiencing. So he and I have been working out regularly, using You Are Your Own Gym. He is an absolutely hilarious workout partner, with a very positive attitude and a willingness to slog through new things with flair. Although I can't say this is "fun", it's getting done. And we laugh. A lot. Mostly at me. But it's good stuff.

This is our last week of break before heading into the next term of the year. We didn't intend to take off all of June (instead of just the first two weeks, for camps), but the weather was too beautiful to spend indoors. It's... not, now. And I have a suspicion that we'll more than make up for it when the heat that's now moved in stays through September, so it's all good. We need something to do in the afternoons other than watching Eureka, right?

The kids were invited to VBS with some friends this week. Jacob was reluctant to go, but agreed to an extension of our "One Honest Bite" approach to life (that started with food, but anything that applies to food can be applied to any element of life, so it gets wide use around here). EmBaby got wind that there would be crafts, and she was IN. Oh, yeah! Jase wanted to want to go, but he wasn't so sure. It was loud. And... well, loud. (We don't go to a loud church, and this was all very new to him.) He said it was scary, so I told him he didn't have to stay and we headed out. The ladies at registration were gracious and kind, and utterly accomodating, but you know, he's four. There's not a single thing he would get from a few hours at VBS that he won't pick up elsewhere in his life over the next umpteen years. (And if there is, then we're doing something wrong. Which we may be, but not with this.) We got back to pick up Jacob and Em a bit early, so we sat in the back to listen to the closing announcements and songs. That's when I realized he was not convinced this was a Good Place To Be, and that he viewed the whole retrieval less as a routine pick up, and more as a SpecOps extraction. We navigated the fine line of Awkward Situations for a bit (thankfully, it was loud, so I don't think anybody overheard our exchange), and escaped without causing a scene.

(Jacob and Em both had a blast, and were thrilled to learn they could go back each evening this week. After hearing that, Jase decided he'd give it One Honest Bite, too, and he stayed tonight, tentative and anxious, holding Em's hand. He says he loved it. Zorak said he was dancing and singing when Z arrived to pick them up. I'm proud of him for giving it a shot, but was also proud of him for knowing it's safe to say, "no, thank you", as well.)

Now, to reconfigure the menu for being in and out all week! :-s


Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Tuesday, June 12

Day Camp, Day Two

Day One went fairly well. Had the usual struggles that I run into when dealing with the Type A Scout Lady (and she had the usual struggles that she runs into when dealing with me - we complete each other. *snort*) But we were not Late, which is virtually ground-shifting.

James and John both said they were pleasantly surprised. I guess they thought it would be a little rough (or weird), but they had a good time working with the younger kids. Jacob, of course, thought it was TheBestCampEver. (Every camp should be, right?) That almost makes having to shift gears and pack lunches worth while.

(On a side note - packing lunches? Whole different ball game. I thought I'd be creative and fun, so I started out looking for lunchbox ideas, but the sites I found all seem to have been written by well-rested parents with one tiny child who doesn't eat much. That's not the lunch I was looking for. The pictures were adorable, though! I guess there's a reason nobody blogs pictures of the lunches you have to pack for adolescent pantry locusts.)

We're picking up a friend's son this afternoon, so they offered to pick up ours on the way in this morning. We have truly fantastic friends. :-) And it would have been perfect, had this not been Trash Day, and had we not snuggled in a little deeper and slept until 6:20. Ugh. Just as I started to call, "Come and eat," I had to change that to, "Oh, look, he's here. Um... :tosses bacon into a bowl: Here, this is for you three to share. Pretend this is normal, okay?"

So they are at camp. The Littlest Littles are still blissfully asleep. There are so many chores left to do this morning. We just can't get moving that quickly, that early. (But first, coffee!)

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Thursday, September 29

The Canoe Trip

The boys went on a canoe-camping trip with their Troop last weekend. Between sign-ups and launch, we lost several to injuries and unexpected soccer tournaments, so only three boys ended up going. That didn't stop them from having a blast, though.


Jodi, the awesome owner of the marina they launched from, offered use of his services and a supply boat for their gear. The boys paddled out to the island, then unloaded the boat, set up camp, and enjoyed a great campout. That island is a bit of a party island for the local... party crowd. So the boys picked up trash while they were there. Between the three of them, they filled six 35 gal. trash bags and hauled it off the island! Wow! I'm glad they understand the importance of leaving a place in better shape than you found it. Can you imagine how beautiful it would be if everyone lived by that philosophy?

They had time to explore the various islands and bluffs while they were there. They marked a few places they'd like to go back and explore more. They fished and fished. One of the boys had a catfish on the line that was big enough to break the line. That left an impression!

 (That's a plow disc behind John's head, not huge hair or a jaunty hat.) I wish I could have gone. It sounds like they had an absolute blast.

They paddled over to an RV park on the far side of the lake for a soda. The owner of the park came out to visit with them a bit - invited them to karaoke that night (the boys were out cold before it started, but the adults said you could hear it clear across the lake!), and gave them some goodies just for fun. Nice people. I appreciate them being kind to our Scouts.

Then Zorak sent me this picture the next day. Because he's cool like that. Isn't that a gorgeous sight to wake up to in the morning?

We have a planning meeting to get the coming year sorted. I hope the boys are up for more adventures, and that they all get as much out of Scouting as they can. It will be time well spent.
Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Saturday, September 3

A Day Out

It was hot today, but under 100, so I guess if you grade on a curve, it wasn't bad. We made it to the Battle for Decatur, and had a truly lovely time talking with the participants. The displays are always interesting - from the weaponry to the furnishings and food, the participants go the extra mile to make it as authentic and realistic and educational as possible. Some of them came from quite a distance, and all of them were absolutely delightful. The Union Army won today's skirmish -- here they are, returning to camp.

The boys took their earnings and bought birch beer and cream soda to soothe the effects of the heat. There were kegs of various beverages - root beer, cream soda, birch beer, cherry lemonade, and the like - you could purchase the bottle for a sum, then refills were significantly less expensive. The bottles were all different, and the set up was unique. Jase particularly enjoyed the cream soda from the bottle that's as big as he is.



We walked and walked, talked and visited. Eventually, the littles began asking if we can go home. History is great, but there is much to be said for the modern conveniences of HVAC systems, glass windows, and bagged ice in the freezer. I asked them to give me a wave for the camera on the way - not sure what Em's doing, but it was fun, nonetheless.




We had a thousand and one other things to get done today, but they will hold until tomorrow. It is worth the wait to have had the day with the whole family together.

Kiss those babies!

~Dy

Wednesday, August 24

Summer fun

This summer has been surprisingly fun. I think the water-park-in-lieu-of-baseball deal helped with that. Two kids have improved their swimming tremendously, two kids have learned to swim at all, and the small one no longer shrieks to high heaven if he's in water over his ankles. The paler among us have muscled through the initial vague yellowing that usually qualifies as "tan" in our home, and we all have pretty stellar Vitamin D levels. Not a bad gig, at all.



Sadly, the water park closes down during the weekdays, starting right about the time we can no longer pretend Summer isn't going to last forever. (Oh, we "know" it won't, but that's hard to believe halfway through August.) The park will close for the season after Labor Day, and then we will mark our calendars for next year's season pass sale, and begin looking forward to Autumn. This is the first year we haven't started looking forward to Autumn shortly after Mother's Day, though, so I can't be too sad.

The Cubs had their Awards Night tonight. It was a busy summer for all the boys, and they'd earned a ton of awards. This was my first Awards night since ending up as the Awards coordinator, but I thought it went well. We got almost everyone to use ScoutTrack, and we're cleaning up from an eight-month record-keeping limbo. I think it went very well, though, as we did not forget any boy or botch any awards. Yay! Our Cubmaster's wife is a bit of a Type A with a grand vision of where to take the Pack, and a panic-stricken horror of how to get there from here -- and she's stuck with me as the Awards Coordinator. If she drank, I'd buy her a flask. As it is, I'm just trying to learn how to use my soothing voice and not make any rapid movements. I think we'll eventually find a good groove, though. We've got good parents, wonderful boys, and plenty of room for everyone who wants to be involved. This is a great thing, and it's going to be a fantastic year.

And that's about all we've been doing this summer - Scouts, sickness, and the Water Park. I hope to have something more interesting to share here in a bit. Until now, though, that's pretty much it. Good stuff, though, in the big picture. We've thoroughly enjoyed the kids, in all their various stages and places. For that, I am thankful.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Monday, July 18

Well that was a wild day!

Buddy has mastered the art of escape. He greeted us on the front porch early this morning with news that he only needs a cape and a gorgeous assistant and he'll be able to make his way in the world. Or he could have been wanting breakfast. It's hard to tell, really. In the meantime, however, we went on full alert trying to figure out his secret. He can't be getting out of the back yard at will, like that! Between the strays that loiter in the neighborhood and the cars that do 60 in a 45, it's just not safe to free range it out here. It took us about an hour, and four escapes, but we finally tracked it down. He watched us from the balcony, totally clueless about our intentions, as the boys and I hauled fencing around to bolster the area and get it blocked off. Then we stationed people in all the windows to watch and see if that was it. I let him off the balcony and he made a beeline for the one spot, then the other. Then, being utterly thwarted, he went to the back porch to hang out. *whew* Dodged that one.

Meanwhile, we were hanging clothes today, singing the praises of the clothes line and the sunshine. The dryer, however, was getting some hairy eyeball from at least two of us. It died last night sometime, leaving us with two loads of wet clothes and no warning. Zorak did the troubleshooting tonight while I took the Bigs to Scouts, and it looks like the problem is a $22 replacement part from Repair Clinic.com (love that place!) And then, because he loves me, he also chipped in for a new washer start knob (ours has been stripped for two years), and a new belt (because while you're in there, you know you might as well replace anything that wears out like that). It'll ship tomorrow, and should be in our hot little hands by Wednesday! Repair Clinic for the WIN! Boo-yah!

We hit the water park, then came home to prepare for the evening. John nailed the quarter mile improvement, which was all he had left to complete his Tenderfoot requirements, so he had his Scoutmaster conference tonight and will sit the board of review next week. It looks like we'll be having a Court of Honor in a couple of weeks, too! Very exciting to see the activity level ramping up in this Troop.

Man, I'm loving the water park. The kids sleep so deeply after a day there. And they're all improving on their water skills - far more than I thought they would, really. Jase is no longer afraid of water deeper than his ankles. Emily's not afraid of anything (kind of wish she was...) but she's comfortable putting her face in the water now (added bonus of making bath time significantly easier). Jacob can SWIM, now. Under water even! And James and John are both getting to be stronger, more confident swimmers all around. I just can't say enough how glad I am they have this opportunity. Good, good stuff.

However, the downside is that I'm about done, too. Still much to do, but this lady is going to finish yet another glass of water and hit the hay. They want to do it again tomorrow, and I'd like to be up for it! ;-)

Kiss those babies!
~Dy