Thursday, December 29

The Glamorous Side

Do you know what I did today?

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

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

Know what else I did?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, December 28

Making Plans, Making Space

The day was filled with Good Things.

I spent some time today getting my planner squared away for the new year. It's looking good. Looking busy. The first week of January looks like a total pain in the ass, but after that, it should be pretty straightforward and doable. I'll take it.

John's dice from The Dice Shop arrived today! They are much nicer than I was anticipating. He is a happy, happy camper. If you have someone in your life who would appreciate some good dice (and, it turns out, there is such a thing - I did not know this before), I would absolutely recommend The Dice Shop. Great communication, easy to navigate site, good prices, and fantastic dice. Just order early enough for shipping. (Although, I will say, it wasn't Royal Air that was the sticking point in the shipping. *aherm* USPS... we're lookin' at you!)

We worked on paperwork and read and visited. James popped a dozen more pieces of paper in the mail. (This is my penance for not being a regular letter writer. It's got to be.)

It's quiet, here, and that's nice. We're hoping 2017 will bring us art, outings, friends, healing, growth, service, adventure, learning, understanding, and love.

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, December 27

Merry Christmas

Those are bottles of Harry Potter Butterscotch Beer, not actual beer.

This was the world's most laid-back Christmas. I found replacement stockings for three of the five children. Everyone agreed they'd rather wait and get one they love than to get a new one just for the sake of it. So, maybe next year we'll get the other two fixed up. We decorated. We planned a simple meal. We set it up so that there was no stress and then we said yes to every invitation and event we could. We relished our friends and loved ones. We observed Advent, and spent a lot of time delving more deeply into what it looks like to live out our faith -- in the home, in the community, in the congregation. It was good.

On the less spiritual end, I think we nailed most of the gifts, and other than James' incredulity when he thought I'd paid $125 for a pair of pants-that-he-didn't-even-particularly-want, all the presents were pretty spot-on and appreciated. (And, for the record, no, I did not spend that much on a pair of pants - they were on sale at a screaming discount, and since he'd worn them for a photo shoot recently, I knew for a fact they fit. Can't walk away from that.)

Also, don't trust estimates that say shipping from the UK should arrive in "5-7 days". That is a lie. At least, it is in December. We still have two packages that haven't arrived, and tracking is useless. But they'll show up eventually. Or not. Either way, it's all good.

We had a lovely visit with the Godparents today. The house is still decorated, but the residue of Christmas Day has been tidied and dealt with. So we could just sit and be together. Good stuff.

I plan to use the coming week to create a plan for the Spring semester, get lesson plans squared away and make sure we have (or rather, can locate...) all the books we'll need. And then, on to 2017!

Be encouraged!

Friday, December 23

The End

We've wrapped up quite a bit this week...

Z finished his class, passed the course, and has a nifty certificate for it. He's one step closer to getting the certification he's been working toward, so that's exciting. They keep changing the requirements for the certification, and while this is good - in that they're raising the bar - it's a little like trying to catch a carrot that's dangling from your own head. There's no grandfathering in to a specific set of requirements, and his year-of-travel last year put him out of the course just long enough that he'll have more courses to complete after this. But for now, he's done. And he's going to rest his brain for a bit before diving back in. I don't blame him. It's good to have him back!

James is just about done with the semester. Time to apply for internships, pursue getting signed with an agency... do whatever he's going to do from here. It's exciting. And weird. And not a little terrifying. He's got most of his college applications done, essays and all. I'm really proud of the work he's put in this year, and of the man he's becoming.

Everybody else is done, too. John's working his ice cream gig and learning new songs on his guitar. Em's still making Christmas presents. Jacob has holed up with the Legos the past few days, decompressing and enjoying some down time.

Jase is reading the first five chapters of the first Ranger's Apprentice book so that Jacob will read the first five chapters of the first Warriors book. It's some kind of sibling-instigated cultural exchange agreement. Cracks me up, but I think it's brilliant.

And soon, we'll wrap up the year. Just like that. For all its ups and downs, it's been quite the experience. I'm rather looking forward to 2017.

Be encouraged!

Thursday, December 22


We have the neatest community, and today was such a treat -- we got to catch the final hours of the opening exhibit of Rice Ball Press, the brainchild and labor of love of Elaine Landers. She recently graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has started this business. Although the business is based in Atlanta, our wee community got first dibs by virtue of being where she's from. Score!

The art was impressive. And Elaine was on hand to explain the backstory for each piece (storytelling taken to its full expression), as well as how the various types of art were made (Em was in heaven!) She's not only incredibly talented, but quite kind, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stop at the gallery.

Take a few minutes to visit her site and see what she has up. I didn't take any pictures other than this one:

Mostly because I can't do her images justice, and they really deserve it. (Isn't she lovely, though? Quite an impressive lady.)

One of the things she shared that I so appreciated, and I hope the kids caught hold of, as well, is that she graduated with a degree in printmaking and a minor in photography -- but she'd started as a sculptor. It was only as she explored other classes that she found things she loved more. And it wasn't until later in her academic career that she found her niche and passion, where she excelled and was happiest. What a great reminder for young people, that you don't have to know exactly where you're going when you set out on your adventure. Just move forward, in a good direction, and be open to the lovely paths and rabbit trails along the way. You never know when one of those will turn out to be your trail!

Be encouraged!

Wednesday, December 21

It Is Time

James went to a party last night with friends. I have no idea how it went because I went to bed long before he got home. Z was up doing homework, and I'm out of things to watch on my own, so I read and got sleepy. I have my ringer volume set to Mind Numbingly Loud, so if there'd been an emergency he could have reached me. I'd have likely shown up looking like someone from an archived episode of Cops, but still, there. That's what counts, right? Pass the Okayest Mother of the Year Award this way, please.

This is not James getting home from his party. This is John, who was in charge of casting music while the Littles decorated the tree. Bonus points if you recognize the video.

We're nominally still doing school. In my head. Actually, right now, Jase is devouring the next in the Warriors (cat) books, and John is in the basement playing his favorite video game. (The basement is nearly finished - it's not as creepy as it sounds.) Everyone else is either sleeping in, or lying in bed praying I won't come poke them. And I haven't the umpf to poke them. Clearly, it's time for Christmas Break.

So today we'll wrap the rest of the presents. I will take notes as we wrap and make sure I haven't missed something important. I'm still waiting on a few packages, because I can't get my financial shizzle together in August and shop like a grown-up. Mahabis (that's James big gift this year) has awesome tracking info... until the package leaves the UK. After that, it all goes dark. I have no idea where his shoes are, if they're nearly here, or if they're now decorating the happy feet of a Somali pirate. And we'll clean a bit. Because that makes everything better.

James has to take his AP Physics final exam today. He won't let me make excited happy faces until that's over. (But I am totally making them in my head!)

Oh! We made liver pate yesterday. It's ostensibly "mellowing", or something, in the fridge, and we'll have it Christmas Eve. It tasted pretty good, although I don't know if it will taste good enough to overwhelm the visual... issues. (That is one unattractive dish!) But it was fun to do, we learned some new techniques, and so that was fun. I've got a package of Braunschweiger, just in case the pate is a no-go.

Be encouraged!

Monday, December 19

Party Fun

We made it to the church's Christmas party last night, and I am so glad we went. (It was dark, and cold, and we were kind of ready to pile up on the couch and watch Foyle's War...) But we went, and I am so glad we did!

The teens took The Resistance to play - it's a guaranteed ice breaker, and, in fact, the families with teens were the last to leave because they were waiting on the kids. Gotta love that.

We brought ice cream cones for the little ones to decorate as trees, with frosting and sprinkles. Yes, I brought sugar. I know. But the sticky thank you hugs I got were totally worth it.

Father Geoff came dressed as a Wise Man. He also brought Frankincense (in the form of incense), which was rather clever. Next year, we're going to have to step up our "festive garb" game, for sure.

The food was amazing. The hosts had a shrimp boil, and everyone brought sides to share. There's just something about shared food... it's good for the soul. It's good to nourish and be nourished in turn, and while "potluck" doesn't sound particularly inspiring, it's actually quite an ennobling way to gather for a feast when you think about it.

And people shared - they shared their happy memories of years past, their concerns and hope for the years to come, their experiences and their ideas. Truly, it was a wonderful evening. Totally worth staying dressed and braving the cold for!

I'm not sure what series of thoughts brought this plan to fruition,
but it's hilarious and I could not resist a photo of it.

Shopping With the Lone Girl

Em is such a happy, sweet, insightful girl. She brings us a balance of beauty and surprise. She's also got the straight man shtick down like a pro, and we often have to do a double take to tell if she's joking. Occasionally, she'll be trying to talk about something lovely, or thoughtful, and a brother will pop off with a fart joke... that's when she turns to me and says, "Would you please get me a sister?" But most of the time, she's pretty content with her home of males.

The other day, I took her Christmas shopping with me. We haven't really done that before, which I hadn't realized. Christmas shopping for a large family in a small house is a series of insane acrobatic maneuvers and online shopping. That's just the only way to do it. And we don't really do "girls day out", or shop-for-fun, or things like that. It's not some moral thing on my part, just not something we get around to. The kids are usually divvied up by age groups or interest, not gender, and while some of it is logistics, some of it is practicality. We do things together, and we thoroughly enjoy them, just not shopping. But this time, we did. Just she and I. And she was *shocked* at how expensive it is to buy Christmas gifts for half a dozen people.

First, though, she needed pants. We've been so blessed with hand-me-downs for her that we seldom need to buy her more than socks, unders, and shoes. Not really exciting stuff. But right now, if the pants are long enough, you could fit two of her in the waistband. If they fit in the waist, they're capris. Not so great for winter wear.

Now, this is my secret Achilles heel. The boys have their styles, and those styles are functional, straightforward, and... not a lot of fun to shop for. Black and soft, or OD Green and sturdy -- Bam, done. But her? She's a wild card on style - color, texture, fabric choice - it's a world of possibility! I love to window shop for her and, had she been an only child, we'd probably be broke from impulse buys because I wouldn't have had the boys there to whisper, "Focus. We're here for socks, Mom. Focus." Plus, because she's so readily pleased, it's even more fun. She is, however, incredibly practical. She found a style of pant that is comfortable and feels good and she was ready to go. I had to convince her to at least get a couple pairs, maybe in different colors. Couldn't talk her into the long plaid tunics or the adorable print leggings, but she agreed to get a couple of long sleeve shirts to supplement her current options. Then she spied a pair of cranberry jeans like mine, and she loved them. "These are just like yours!" So we got those, too, because how fun is that? (I could not pay the boys to wear matching clothes with me on purpose! Gonna take this win while I can.) Eventually, she was squared away and then she proceeded to herd me back to checkout by whispering, "Focus. We're here for Christmas gifts, Mom. Focus."

Then we hit the serious Christmas shopping -- goodies for John and Jacob, and the perfect gift for James... just-the-thing for Jase (she'd found it in September and has been reminding me daily, so I don't forget - thank God they hadn't sold out yet). We stopped for lunch, and wrapped it up in time to join the boys at Game Day. (I've been shuffling bags from room to room ever since. We should have bought wrapping paper while we were out!)

The restaurant where we ate lunch was a little loud, and it was hard to hear, so she started signing to me across the table. BRILLIANT! We had a mostly-silent lunch, punctuated by bouts of laughter and her declaration that this is really useful for loud spaces.

I think it took going out shopping for the boys to kick start her into thinking of things she would like to have. Up until now, she'd asked for a set of Perler beads and that. was. it. Yesterday, she handed me her notebook to show me that she'd made a list. It is so sweet. (Please ignore the spelling and my weird shadow puppet action, there.)

A sharpie? Her own sharpie. That's a pretty sane request in this house. I might ask for one, too. And I think I know just the place to find a perfect replacement blanket.

Be encouraged!

Thursday, December 15

Big News. Ish.

Well, not Big-big News. I'd hopefully come up with a much better title for that. But little-news-that's-exciting-to-me-because-I-hate-using-the-computer-for-reading. ACNA (the Anglican Church in North America) has been working on a Texts for Common Prayer, and it looks like it'll be available in print January 1st. (It's been available in PDF for a while.) We're relatively new to the Anglican Church (it's been about a year and a half), and I do love me some hands-on reading. So I'm quite excited about this.

In other news, it's Alabama-cold. The kids set small cups of water on the porch last night, and were not only disappointed, but quite surprised that the water didn't freeze. They were relatively certain that the ice should have been rock solid and rather impressive. I don't know if we need to move to Minnesota, or just double down on how temperatures work. (Although to be fair, with a low of 24, I thought they'd at least get a little something around the rim. Our pipes freeze up when it hits 27... So maybe I need to study up, too.) Either way, we're loving the warm goodness of wool this week.

Not a lot, really, going on today. Had lunch with a wonderful friend -- we got to talk a bit about what it's like to have a student done with homeschooling... and then (as I'm about to graduate my first, she's about to graduate her last) what it's like to *be* done with homeschooling. Nobody ever blogs about that. Probably because it's just as terrifying as getting started, but with less heads up. You're plugging along, doing your thing, and the next thing you know, there's nobody coming up the ranks... just, done. Weird. Exciting, liberating, wide-open, and not a little unsettling. But I'm excited to see what she's going to do, and I'll be jotting down ideas for when I look up and realize I'm done.

If you're in the thick of it, know this - you're doing good work. Be diligent. Be kind. Be encouraged.


Wednesday, December 14

A Day's Outing

We had three field trips today, starting at 8:30 this morning. That... wasn't the best planning I've done, but it worked out well in the end.

Krispy Kreme tour -- the highlight of this one was getting to mill about and visit with people we adore and see only rarely. Plus, coffee. Because if we have to be anywhere at 8:30, there should be coffee.

Knitting -- a dear friend meets with a knitting group, and she's invited Em to join them. But new people. And learning new skills. And so, polite-but-firm refusal has been Em's MO.

But *today*, we were having our book club at the same place, at overlapping times! So I had to jump on that opportunity, because it might not happen again, and I knew she'd love it once she got there.

And she did. (*whew*) When the knitters left for the day, she joined the rest of the kids for some board games and hang time...

Then we came home and slapped a little learning into the day with history, math, literature and languages.

James is really showing his mettle with this Physics course. I don't think I could do a full year's AP Physics in five months. Eh, strike that, there's No Way I could do it. But he's doing it. It hasn't been easy, and a few of the hurdles he's cleared haven't been gorgeous and sleek (they've been more like when I try to clear actual, physical hurdles), but he has kept on it. Not giving up, that one. And he gets it. He makes sure of that by putting in extra time when he doesn't get it, even if he's got the homework done and turned in -- he keeps at it until he's wrangled it to the ground. The mother in me gets exasperated with his organizational struggles, but the human in me is inspired by his intelligence and tenacity.

Not insinuating that mothers aren't humans. But we have strange lenses. Sometimes we've got to step back and view what our children are accomplishing through the eyes of just being human, doing hard things, and sticking to it. And then we are amazed. And oh, so proud.

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, December 13

BIG Weekend

Saturday was kind of quiet. Then Sunday was packed with church and a photo shoot and headshots, and it bled over into Monday with school and parade prep, and now we overslept on Trash Day. Oops!

Em was acolyte at church on Sunday. She's not a Center Stage kind of person, so this is a challenge for her. She'd gladly decorate the church, make blankets for the homeless, sew hats for babies. Being in front of people, however, is hard for her. And learning new things (skills, routines, steps) in front of people? Oy vey! But she does it sweetly and with a good attitude. We have enough children serving that the kids only have a turn once every six weeks or so -- she appreciates the reprieve, but I think she needs to do it every week for a month straight so it'll stick. Right now, it's a little like it's her first time every time. She's adorable, though, even though she's probably not much actual help for Father Geoff. And I love our vestry for being so sweet about directing her when she gets lost.

Did I tell you all James is modeling? He started in June, and he loves it. We're all moderately surprised at this (not because he's not lovely, but because he's so cerebral and analytical - we just always assumed he'd be an engineer or a scientist -- this is what comes of raising your children to work hard, study hard, and find their joy -- it doesn't usually look the way you thought it would, but it will be good). He is good at it, he works hard at it, and he's learning so much. Then Jacob decided to give it a go -- he was selected in November to work with the Alabama Fashion Alliance. This incredible organization is hosting Fashion Week Alabama, which is in March. (I'm sure I'll talk your ear off about it as it gets closer. Good stuff happening in North Alabama.) Jacob was cast to walk in it, and James got his first paid walk that week, too. Very exciting stuff.

This was Jacob's first shoot, and he could not have asked for a better first experience. From the stylist (who is a dream stylist!) to the photographers (who are fantastic), to the other models, the whole thing was fantastic. James brought his A-game, LeJeune (the AFA director) found a tremendously talented designer of men's clothes, and I cannot wait to see the results in the look book.

This is just friends hanging out after the meeting at the end of the day. We should all look that good at the end of a work day. :-)

Monday was the Christmas Parade. John is doing a prince role for a local princess group. They do a lot of charity events, but also hire out for parties and dances. It's an incredible group of young people who make it all happen. I just showed up to drive the trailer. We had to wrap up school in the morning so we could hit the car wash before going to get the decorated trailer. Then the normally five minute drive to downtown took about 30 minutes because we couldn't go over 20mph. But the end result was fantastic!
Prepping the float - he's not only handsome, he's helpful.

We got home and everybody crashed!

Today, we read. And make coffee, pot after pot. And rest.

Be encouraged!

Thursday, December 8

Holidays With Teens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then we had ASL class, and arrived home.

The movie is actually creepy.

Be encouraged!

Tuesday, December 6

It's a Party! With Party Food!

This fall, I've been part of the most amazing book club. It's been a source of humor, support, prayer, encouragement, ideas and insights, thoughtful conversation... You name it. We've also managed to read a couple of books. But that turned out to be the excuse, not the purpose. Tomorrow, we party.

The gift exchange plan is that the adults have drawn names and are to give gifts that we already have lying around, or can make. Wish I'd thought about the potential for this at some point in the last year of purging and wardrobe capsules and decluttering. I'm down to offering up a spare cast iron skillet, or maybe a SCOBY... So, I think we're going to go with making something. (But it's 10:30 and I don't know what. The odds that it will be "something laminated" are increasing as we approach midnight, I'm not gonna lie.) The kids are doing a similar gift plan, but they're planning on doing a Dirty Santa exchange instead of drawing names.

Em crocheted a mermaid while we read today.

I.... I've got nothing like that up my sleeve.

So James and I were thinking homemade treats would be nice. But of the group, we have varying degrees of dietary restrictions: sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, peanut-free, Keto, and Paleo. Plus one who can pretty much only eat cotton candy and nuts. (It's not that bad, but if I'm going to feed her, I take a picture of the ingredients, or the label on a product and text her, "Can you eat this?" Because if I guess, I will guess wrong!)

James happily decanted some of his vanilla erythritol, slapped a bow on it, and went back to studying. John grabbed a carabiner, which he hails as "the most useful thing since the pocket knife", wrapped it, and went back to studying. Jacob made a bracelet. Jase found a recipe for mint chocolate cookies that meets ALL of the dietary limitations of the group, so that's what he wants to make in the morning.

I still don't know what I'm going to do for the gift exchange, but in my search for inspiration I found some neat links to random things you can feed people who have special dietary requirements and thought perhaps you would enjoy some of them. (I've been full-on Keto for the last year, and feel amazing. But we don't really eat a lot of treats and sweets and such, so I haven't looked for alternatives. We make our mayo and sriracha and everything else can be killed or grown. Boy, was that search eye-opening! I had NO IDEA how far recipes had come for the dietary-restricted diets! Dang, people, way to get creative with your bad selves!)

First up, I found this recipe for what the author says is a lot like a Jolly Rancher. It's made with xylitol and either LorAnn's candy flavoring or unsweetened Kool-Aid. Oh, and a hot plate. (We do not have a hot plate, or a mug warmer, much to James' sorrow, so we used the coffee pot. It seems to have worked.) I didn't get pictures of the process because I am so far out of that frame of mind you wouldn't believe it. But it's a very low key process. We didn't add enough flavoring, I think. Prototypes are like that. But we also did not napalm anyone in the kitchen, break the coffee pot, or poison the dog. Plus, it's very satisfying to get xylitol to crystallize.

Then I found this mother lode of links for mug cakes. Paleo, low-carb, crazy, rampant cake recipes! I haven't made them, yet, but we did put Meyer lemons on the grocery list. I'm kind of toying with the idea of having batches pre-made and bagged with mugs set out, so guests can just pick their mix, dump it into a mug, and IT'S A PARTY!

If I can get up and out the door early enough tomorrow to buy some Swerve, I really want to make these Butterfinger Bars by Maria Emmerich.

And my sweet friend who has to preview ingredients graciously sent me her own pumpkin "pie" recipe after Thanksgiving... I doubled the egg count, threw in a titch of stevia, and we ate the whole danged thing. So she's getting a ramekin of that with whipped coconut cream tomorrow. In a heart shape, because I love her, and I'm a dork, and it'll make her smile.

Then we'll sit and catch up on each other's lives over the last week. We'll share a few quiet minutes while the kids play The Resistance and yell in the other room. We'll refresh our spirits and bolster ourselves for the coming week. It's good stuff.

Be encouraged!

Monday, December 5

Figuring Out Foreign Language

I had some really fantastic plans for foreign language study when we first started homeschooling. Oh, it was going to be FUN!

We have since discovered that I am a wannabe polyglot, and I have children who are... not. I would be perfectly content if Z could get one-year assignments abroad, allowing us to study languages by immersion, for the next, say, 5-10 years. The children, while willing to travel, are happy with their native tongues and the occasional random foray into other modern languages. (One of them knows how to swear in Russian. Not sure how to put that on a transcript, but I'll let you know when I get the wording just right.) But mostly, they love math. And science. And art. And music.

I spent several very confused years parsing this whole thing out. Then another year or two trying to figure out how to plug the holes in the now-abandoned plan.

But you know what? It's OK. They plugged their own holes. And they have a strong foundation, in spite of my efforts. And mostly, they're happy.

They even come tell me things they've learned now, instead of trying not to make eye contact for fear I'll ask how that Latin is coming.

And then, we have Em. She thinks in pictures. It's due to a supreme combination of fortitude and mercy that she reads fluently and can spell well enough to know when to ask someone to check it for her. Her world is in pictures and textures, hues and values, shapes and contours. There is decoration, detail and proportion. It's a beautiful world, but it's not a wordy world. What were we going to do for a child who doesn't even think in words in her own language?

Z still hasn't landed an overseas gig, so there goes that plan for now.

Enter ASL. We took a course this fall, mostly with the intention of getting out of the house and learning something different. She liked it. It made sense to her. She's *really* good at it. And when the instructor explained that ASL is a conceptual language, Em nodded and bobbled happily in her seat, as if that were the most natural thing in the world. I knew we'd found a winner.

It's kind of fascinating. And, I get to learn a new language, too! Jase is in on it, too, because he's game for pretty much anything.

So when your children exert their personhood, don't panic. Take a deep breath, exhale, celebrate who they are and what they love. Keep expecting good things from them, and doing all the things you do, anyway -- because that's what we do, right? And who knows what fun surprises you'll find along the path they pick!

Be encouraged!

Sunday, December 4

Getting Back Into It

I was helping one of the boys with his planning tonight and had to do something on the computer. He he asked if I was going to blog about it. I paused for a minute before answering.

Uh, no, I wasn't.

He asked why.

I told him I hadn't blogged regularly in ages, and hadn't blogged hardly at all this year, but that I didn't really know why. Just hadn't.

"Oh. You should."


So, I thought I would give it a try again. But I'm not entirely sure what direction to go.

The kids are all going a million different ways. Senior year, Junior year... jobs, college, car repairs... chickens, art, books... 8th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade... we need to make paper... but there's already so much paper all over the house...

Z's still hoping to move.

We're still really fortunate to have great people in our lives...

I had my six-month scan, and am still cancer-free. I was so relieved, I went home and slept for four hours. Ha! Such a party animal these days. My bloodwork was so good that the doc agreed with my initial plan (we had not... always been on the same page), and I'll do labs again in June and won't do another scan until Jan '18. (So, being able to blog about Something Other Than Cancer will make the prospect of writing again significantly more appealing.)

And that's the plan. It's not much of a plan, but I tell the kids that they won't move forward if they don't move at all. Guess I'll take my advice.

Be encouraged.

Friday, July 22

Pfft. Well, there you go.

I started writing again with the intent to sit down once a week. Anyone can do that. Right? Evidently not. I'm not sure what happened since the 8th. Well, no, that's not true. I've driven. About 1800 miles this week, alone. So much time in the Suburban.

I really appreciate air conditioning in the car.

And cup holders.

And teens who shower, who share their music, and who remember to bring water. They make everything easier.

James has been working on his Eagle project. And modeling. And taking summer classes at the local college. Blessedly, we discovered Flonase this month, so he's handling it all really well and only feels mildly overwhelmed. But he can breathe! And think! It's wonderful!

John has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of his card from his driver's ed class, so he can go get his license. In the meantime, I've gotten to know our insurance agent quite well as I call and plead for leniency in adding two adolescent males to the same policy at the same time. She's very kind, but there's not a lot they can do. When I finish writing today, I'm going to go find bean recipes to add to our already fantastic repertoire.

The rest of us are bumping along, listening to Terry Pratchett in the car, singing songs in the car, and playing I Spy in the car. Because have I mentioned that we've done a lot of driving? Yeah, that needs to stop.

So I volunteered for a turn hosting book club at the house in order to prod me into cleaning. Works like a charm. And then, I suppose it's time to start rounding up materials for the start of school.

I wonder if I should get a binder with a hard cover, so I can write in the car?

Be encouraged!

Friday, July 8

Well, that was awesome. And I need to work on my geography.

We ran away. Just piled the kids in the car, hired the Most Wonderful Housesitter in the World to stand in for us, and took off to Colorado for a week. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.

Having two additional drivers made the trip a total breeze. They are expensive to insure, thanks to the unpredictability of that Y chromosome, and they are expensive to feed, thanks to... well, I'm not sure what's going on, there, but it's costly. But boy, are they worth it on a road trip!

We've made the drive Out West many times over the last 12 years, so I didn't really plan the route or make reservations (like I do that on a first-run? whatever. anyway. This is probably why Z doesn't like it when I travel while he's gone*.) We loaded up, I asked them to fire up the navigator and off we went. I didn't actually look at the navigator, and we leave it muted. In hindsight, this is tantamount to drugging your map reader and making him ride in the back seat blindfolded. At any rate, it didn't dawn on me that we might be taking a different route when we went through Nashville instead of Memphis. Or rather, I figured there was road work, or a giant accident, maybe even an alien landing, that may have re-routed us. When we hit Kentucky, though, and Jacob announced, "I've never been to Kentucky!" I realized we were on foreign ground for getting from Here to There. And I was not entirely certain how or why we were there.

Then we hit Illinois. And I know that I took geography, and did rather well in it, but in my head, Illinois has Chicago (which it does, but not the way my brain interprets that information), and that meant we were very near the Great Lakes (no, we weren't), which, based on what I had decided was a rapidly deteriorating grasp of geography, was probably not the fastest way to get to Colorado from Alabama...

But we were on a road trip, so what the heck. We'll trust Google. Either it'll pan out, or we'll be seeing Mt. Rushmore around lunchtime tomorrow, right?

Missouri came next (as it is wont to do, if you're traveling West through Southern Illinois, but I made a mental note to spend more time on North American geography with the Littles, at least. It's too late for the older ones, who also vaguely suspected we had just veered way north, then way south, and where were we going, anyhow? I promised to drop a few bucks into their therapy jar when we returned home).

It was at this point that I had to pull over and see just WHERE we were, and how we were going to get where we wanted to go. From the looks of it, Kansas was next (that was another total surprise - I've been to nearly every state in the Continental US and have somehow never actually been in Kansas. I think). And it's about an hour and a half shorter than the route we usually take (score one for the creepy-yet-effective Google algorhithms!) So on we went.

If I had planned ahead, or even looked at the map beforehand, we could have seen friends on the way. Actually, now that I realize they don't live eight days' travel by boxcar from our place, we may be able to see them more often.

Texts with Z were fun.

"How's it?"

"Good. Just stopped at the weirdest gas station I think I've ever seen. Heading your way, now."

"What was it?"

"Bernie's. If they weren't so far out in the middle of nowhere, I'm prety sure they'd have to answer for some severe copyright violations. The logo looks like The Walking Dead hit the Weekend at Bernie's set and did some damage."

"...where are you?"


"Why are you in Kansas?"

"I have no idea. But we'll be there tonight! Gotta go, John's driving."

Probably didn't do a lot to make him more comfortable with the idea of me dragging the children on road trips without him. I see that, now. Maybe I'll do better next time. Probably not. We had a lot of fun! And we made it safely to Colorado, where we spent a wonderful week exploring, hiking, trying to think of ways to convince Z that we should all move into a small apartment above a store in Manitou Springs...

*Note: his reluctance to embrace me road tripping without him has nothing to do with my capabilities or lack thereof (hey, we made it in one piece, in record time). It has to do with the idea of everything he values most in this world hurtling across the planet in a metal box, surrounded by potential psychopaths and texting drivers while he is far, far away and unable to do anything about any of it. And maybe a little bit of my refusal to learn to make an itinerary. But mostly it's just the "I love you, please be safe, why don't you wait and we'll all go to Florida together when I get back" kind of thing. It's sweet. I appreciate it, even if I don't always show it.

And now, we are home.

Be encouraged!

Saturday, June 25

So, we survived...

PET scan in April showed complete remission. I'm really glad for that. A side effect of chemo I hadn't anticipated was the chemo brain. Suddenly, I was totally incapable of doing the *one* thing I've done for the last 17 years - managing our home. It's taken me about that long to get good at it, and suddenly, *POOF*, gone. I couldn't do it. I couldn't interpret a calendar. I couldn't remember what we were supposed to do. I couldn't formulate complete thoughts that led anywhere. It was like living with the Cheshire Cat in control of all cognitive processes. That pretty well tanked all my good intentions to have blog entries about the chemo process and beating cancer (because I totally had no intention of losing this one). Not that anyone would have known that, had I lost. (Aaaannnd, someone's talking to me, again, in spite of the fact that I'm typing. This is significantly easier to cope with when I have my brain back, but I've gotta tell you, it still makes me feel stabby.)

Anyway, we did it. We survived. And now, we're picking up the pieces. There are more pieces than I'd expected. It's like coming out of an amnesiac state only to find your family has suffered some kind of traumatic event that you don't quite know how to address. But we're working on it.

We're also piecing together the educational train wreck that was our Year of Unintentional Unschooling. Turns out, we're lousy unschoolers in general, but not entirely. The kids have continued to learn, in spite of the bizarre circumstances. And I'd wager that the stress of Educating with Dory was less of a hurdle that trying to maintain an institutional schedule would have been. So, there's that. Hurrah for Unintentional Wins!

You want to know what the best thing is for a family surviving chemo? Good friends. I don't mean well-meaning people who can't quite make eye contact but they feel really badly for you. I mean the kind of friends who will take your kids while you have a bone marrow biopsy. The kind of friends who will take up the slack in your co-op schedule because you can look straight at the syllabus and not be able to say whether you need to prepare for oxidation or molarity next week. Because words are hard when your brain doesn't work. The kind of friends who will still be willing to sit and chat with you about over coffee about normal stuff - the weather, books, the upcoming art festival, books-that-aren't-about-cancer, the last Scout trip, and maybe books. I can't tell you how much that means when you're in the middle of a weird experience that you don't want to be in, that doesn't necessarily have an end point, and that may not have the outcome you'd banked your very life on. Be that friend. Have that friend. We were so, so blessed to have more than one, and I just hope I live long enough to pay it forward, backward, and under the table. Because these people were the real sanity savers.

And that, my friends, is so much more than I could have wished for.

Be encouraged!