Sunday, August 27

It's like Military Maneuvers

... if your military were staffed by clowns and hippies.

We pulled into the parking lot with one minute until prayer began. The car doors were flying open before the thing was in park, and I heard from somewhere in the back, "All right, troops, move, move, MOVE!"

I clambered out, gathered my things, and was formulating a response when I heard, "Or, you know, eventually. That works, too." It was John, who was standing there, holding the door open as the little moved ever so slowly toward the door, chatting, gathering their things, putting on their shoes.

I stifled a laugh and grabbed the rest of my things.

That one little interaction pretty much summed up our Sunday mornings. We may have grand plans and ambitions, but we're only going to move as quickly as our least-focused cadet. And yet, we made it without any yelling, or making anyone cry. Sometimes there's a bit of resignation, though.

I do wish I were a more consistent photo taker. Jase was wearing shorts and big, heavy shoes, and he just exuded Christopher Robin. It was precious and wonderful and made me smile every time he scampered off somewhere. I hope he's the one who picks my clothes for me when I'm old.

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Saturday, August 26

Oh, A Day to Rest!

Folks, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to tomorrow! Sure, we'll be driving into town (or rather, Z will drive - I will sit in the passenger seat and field random observations from Jase in the third row - it's how we roll). But when we get there, we will worship, we will learn. We will be still, we will give thanks and praise. We will comfort those who are grieving and hurting, as well as rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

And then, we'll eat together - all of us in our loud, messy, loving, wonderful, sometimes-cranky, always-thankful glory. I think our regular pot luck and prayer meeting is one of the highlights of my month. And tomorrow, I am going to sink down into a chair and just appreciate that we can do that.

Absolutely none of the things that have harried my mind of late are settled. In fact, some of them have gotten worse. Ha! Didn't expect that! But you know, it's OK. It really is. It will come together, one way or another, and there will be so much good to be had, regardless. I got that this week. I mean, I'd known that in my head, and I'd have encouraged any of you to remember it if you'd asked, but it's so nice to feel it deep, deep down in my bones. It's like exhaling when you didn't realize you'd been holding your breath.

The week was insanely busy. Jacob had auditions for The Nutcracker. No clue what he'll be doing, but he doesn't care. He's just so excited to be IN the very show that brought him this love and life that he's building. They could make him one of the wee mice and he'd be content.

The rest of it? Mostly driving. Driving and working. It's all good, but it makes for very boring prose. I'm sure a good DJ could knock out a rollicking good recap of the week's mileage, but us? Not so much. We ran through our Pimselur recordings. Jacob read in the car (but he won't read aloud to me while I'm driving, so that part is very boring). He quizzed me on the specs and histories of various armament, and I failed miserably at recalling any of the information, at all. So he told me all of it, again.

Oh! I did get to see James last night! (Yes, he still lives here, but between our schedules, we're just out of phase enough that we might as well live in different time zones. It's weird.) Anyway, we crossed paths for about half an hour at a party. He had popped in to say hi and visit a bit, but when he started to go, the hostess suggested he stay for a bit and see his mom (I was on my way to drop Jacob off and retrieve the Littles). So he did! Ha! That was brilliant on her part. We do greet in passing in the hallway, and occasionally bump into each other at the washing machine, but other than that, I just don't see him much. He looks good. Happy. Enjoying work and school. He has one instructor, in particular, who he just thoroughly enjoys.

Maybe I'll get to see the rest of them sometime this week?

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, August 23

Library School and Projects

This is such a weird year. The Littles and I are enjoying Library School while Jacob is at dance. I don't know why we didn't think of this last year, but it's a sanity saver and a half for me this year. We hoof it to the library and enjoy from one and a half to three hours of leisurely study and discussion. (So, you know, they're getting an education, which is a massive win, there.) There's a break room where you're allowed to have drinks, so that's where we do our tea and poetry. It's not as aesthetically pleasing as other cozy spots in the library (and it is bizarre to watch the rotation of people who use the pay phone in the corner to conduct "business" as the day progresses), but it is decidedly water-resistant, which I guess was the point. Anyway, it's a fair compromise.

They have an online class that takes place while he's at ballet, and although I have railed against computers in libraries for ages (mostly after a dust up at one library where the monitors faced into the children's area and adults would often use them to look at porn, but the librarian went off on me about censorship when I suggested they change the layout to protect little eyes - that set me on edge over it, to be honest), I was ever so appreciative for them this week! As with most things, it's how you use it. And whether you consider those around you when you use it. *aherm*



Meanwhile, we're trying to revamp our menu plans because we've all hit the point where we're a little burned out on eating out of a hipster snack box all day. Plus, my bag has a lot of nut dust in it, and I'm terrified I'm going to inadvertently trigger an allergic reaction on some poor stranger. So, it's time to rein it in. Time to toss the bag in the wash, pack like we mean it, and put together legit lunches for our on-the-go days. I have no idea what that's going to look like.

After I refinished the single little nightstand a couple of weeks ago, I really wanted to do the whole suit. It felt overwhelming, though, so I kept putting it off. Well, after we decluttered our room, I realized I could just lay down a drop cloth and do it in place! No need to move the dresser! WOOHOO! On Sunday, I dismantled everything, cleaned the hardware, and painted the first coat on the dresser! The drawers got moved to the dining room.



So... we've been eating in the living room and sleeping on the couch for three nights, because I started the project and then BAM, we hit the week running. So there's been a bit of lag between coats and sanding and waxing. Whoops. Thankfully, the couch is both comfortable and big enough for everyone to eat around, and for two adults to sleep on comfortably!

However, that needs to end soon. My room, with the dresser contents strewn about, looks like it's been vandalized by angry fashionistas.

I hope your week has been filled with unexpected progress and delightful interruptions!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy


Tuesday, August 15

Brilliant Plans and... Other Ones

Yesterday was a rest day. Well, it was a school day and a rest day. OK, actually, it was a school day, a few small projects, a little more cleaning, and a rest day. But when Jase talked to Z about his day, he told him it was a rest day, "so we didn't do much but hang out, eat and read". Then he gave me credit for it! So it's officially going down as a rest day that I instituted. Because I don't often get credit for the occasional cool things I do. (This incident is not a prime example, since it wasn't actually a rest day, but I don't even mind at this point.)

We replaced the worn dry erase board in the linen closet door and cleaned and repainted the air return register. We washed some more walls. We made more lists. John had Favorite Child status for several hours because he dug around in the basement to find the panel that I knew was down there but which none of us had seen in ages. Many people thought it was a myth. I had even begun to think perhaps we'd thrown it out at some point. But no, he found it! And he cut a new panel and got it switched out.

Today, we all overslept. I awoke at 7:37, immediately registered that we were behind the 8-ball for an 8 o'clock hair appointment, and bolted out of bed to wake everyone else. AND we made it! We weren't coherent, or clean, or functional, but we were there. After that, and a hair cut, I needed a full-on shower. I was still a little sleepy, however, and didn't want to do the bag-wrap-tape routine on my finger (I sliced the tip off last week - rookie mistake that's more irritating and inconvenient than damaging, thankfully). So I grabbed a mechanic's glove. It worked great until I reached down to shave and the glove immediately filled up with water! Oops! Lesson learned - tape the wrist!

Jacob got his schedule recommendations today, so we're plugging things into grids to see what's going to work. I found a lot of schedule templates online that skip weekends, or end at 5. None were quite what I needed, but then I found one from Apache, an Open Office spreadsheet that was dead handy. If you use Open Office and need a planner template, this one's quite functional. I had to tweak the margins on my page set up a titch to get it to print on one page, but it's pretty good, otherwise.

We're all about to head into a completely new world with school. I feel like we're skydiving for the first time -- no clue what to expect and vaguely surprised to find us here even though this was the plan and we very intentionally got to this place. It's so strange. If you're kindly inclined, please keep all of the young men and women who are heading off to college, to internships, to work, in your prayers. They're in for some amazing adventures, but it doesn't hurt to have people actively pulling for you.

Be encouraged!

Dy

Monday, August 14

Be That Friend

Have I mentioned lately just what a blessing a good friend is?

Well, it is. So much so.

In this case, she is. And I am both humbled and appreciative in quantities I cannot express.

You see, I've been absolutely pummeled by Things lately. Not big things. Not bad things. Just things. What's the old saying, nibbled to death by ducks? It's migratory season and I am camped out at the watering hole, people. There are ducks everywhere.

And there are days that I suspect I'm the only one who can see them, which puts me pretty firmly in the Hunter S. Thompson category for a) crazy, and b) really unable to handle the situation.

So when I got paralyzed last week and decided that refinishing furniture was probably my number one priority, that was a big red flag for me. WHOA, Nellie! Why are we painting a nighstand in the basement? (Because it's something I can do. That helps. And has an end point. Unlike every flipping thing else going on in my life. Hand me the sandpaper and stop asking questions.)

And a dear friend asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

And my inner idiot said, in a very tiny voice, "No, I'm fine."

And a dear friend said, "Can I come over on a specific date to help with specific things?" (Which, really, is the better question to ask, because when people are stripping hardware in the basement instead of washing walls, they don't really know what kind of help they need. Or what they need, at all. True story.)

And I started to say, in what I intended to be a Big, Strong Brave Voice, "Nah, I've got it." But then I heard the punchline to my favorite joke...

I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more help did you want?

And since the Holy Spirit seemed to realize that I need pedestrian humor to get me moving, I laughed. And then I said, in a Very Relieved Voice, "Yes, that would be lovely."

Then, she came. And I stood here, in my mess and clutter, with one sock on cockeyed, feeling very, very vulnerable while she did not freak out, grab the children and yell over her shoulder as she ran for the truck, "Who lives like this?!?!" (For which I am forever grateful.)

She made a check list. She pointed us in the right direction. Then (OH! THE GRATITUDE!) she worked with Em to box up all. her. art. All of it. Into bins. And Em didn't cry. She didn't feel stripped of her world. This friend did something that I could not have done with all the Moscow Mules in the world at my disposal: she made packing up fun for Em!

And she cracked the paralysis that had overcome me. I don't know which of the aspects I appreciate the most, but I'm going to do my part by saying, y'all, Be. That. Friend. Be willing to step up alongside your friends when they are stuck. Even if you don't know what they need, just go be present. Lob ideas. Laugh. Visit. Work if there's work to be done. Bring joy. Be encouraging. You have no idea what good it can do a soul! But they will, and it will matter.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, August 13

First Showing, School Books

We showed the house today! It was nerve-wracking and scary and hard, but we did it. I don't know if they liked it or hated it, but they were kind and made it painless. They stayed for two hours, their children played and ran amok all over the property, and we got that dreaded *first* out of the way. If this isn't the house they need, that's OK. It was a good experience, all the way around.

After they left, I took pictures, thinking to put them up online and get the word out. But that's not going to happen yet. All I see in the pictures are things I want to fix, tweak, clean, change. Nope. Not just yet. Or, maybe a few now... and then I can update the album as we go? I don't know. Although I DO know that taking a photo of a room is an excellent way to assess its condition even when you think you already know what it needs! Wow! There's something about a photograph that allows us to step back and look with a critical, unbiased eye, which is pretty cool. I'm not sure at what point we'll have done enough work that it'll warrant calling a realtor to come take over. Who knows? Always be learning, right? Sometimes, we learn the hard way. That's OK, too.

Meanwhile, Jacob and I are working through The Iliad right now. He asked if I'd read a bit aloud tonight. I jumped on it, as I've been wanting us to read together more. Yeah, that was a trap. It was the end of Book 2, where Homer lists all the ships, all the leaders, all the dalliances that brought about the leaders... it's a lot like reading I Chronicles, but with harder names to pronounce. No wonder he didn't get through it during the week. Good to read, but not gripping. Well, unless you're into genealogy. I'm sure it's fascinating to somebody, just not for us. We continued on through Book 3 to make up for it. Now, that was fun!

Now that we've got the first showing out of the way, a lot of the house de-cluttered and an idea what needs to be done next/first/whatever, I feel much less tense about the whole process. We'll just work our way through the photos, right? It's a start, at any rate.

Tomorrow, school! A little work in the foyer and hall. Then dance. Always dance...

Be encouraged, no matter how weird things get, there's good to be found!

Dy

Saturday, August 12

Well, then...

I didn't think the kitchen had much we could get rid of.

I was wrong. So wrong.

And now, it looks so much better! So, yay!

***********************************************************************

I wrote that ^^ two weeks ago. Since then, we've been working on the rest of the house. Ballet auditions. Home staging. Work. School. Planning. HOLY COW. I came up for air and it's August, y'all!

The meadow is mowed. The trash is out. The walls are clean! The game is afoot!

Meanwhile, we're putting together some section hikes of the Pinhoti for this fall. This gives me something fun to do now, and something to look forward to for later. (When it's 95 degrees and 80% humidity, I do not look forward to so much as walking to the car. But I can plan indoors, where there's a/c!)

I found this, too. Don't really want to get down to 8#, but it did inspire me to drop a significant portion of my pack weight for this fall. Check it out.

http://www.opb.org/television/video/orfg-2817-01-ultralight-hiking/

**********************************************************************

James starts school on Wednesday. He's loving his job. (He also threatened to just sleep there until we're done with the house. I think he's not enjoying the process of working on the house after working at his job all day.) We don't see him much, but he's happy when we do see him.

***********************************************************************

I still don't have a clue what the schedule is for this fall. I don't have John's schedule, or Jacob's schedule, and that means I can't make Em and Jase's schedules. That's making me a little twitchy.

***********************************************************************

We'll have photos of the house soon! I'm so excited!

And with that, we're mostly caught up. I've got some room in my brain now and can write again.


Saturday, July 29

Listing A House

With Z looking for work that will take us closer to his mom, and the boys' activities (work, school, dance) keeping them in town from dawn to dusk, we've decided to sell the Forever Home and move into a rental.

Now to declutter enough that I can stage it and make a comprehensive list of Things To Be Done. Yikes!

Today, we worked in the basement and the foyer. I can't even pretend to have any idea how much headway we made, or what we need to do next. I just need to get some stuff out of the way so I can breathe. We did quite a lot, though, and this evening everyone is sleeping well.

Tonight we attended a going away party for friends. That's always a bittersweet occasion. We're happy for them to have new adventures and explorations, but there will be an empty place for those of us left behind. It was good to hug them one more time tonight, to see the kids all grown (growing?) up... And thank God for technology. We can video chat, keep up to date through social media, and email. So it's almost like we get to go along with them. That makes the distance easier.

Tonight, though, I'm beat, physically and mentally. It's time to kick off my boots and watch something stupid.

Be encouraged!

Dy

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

Thursday, July 27

The Fall School Plan, 2017-18

I've been making school plans since 2005. We began with one student and have slowly added to the roster every few years. This is the first year I didn't make one for James. He's off and running, doing his own thing - work, college, life. He went with friends to see Fiddler on the Roof while I was gone. He's budgeting tithe money, gas money, and savings. He's pre-reading his literature text over the Summer. I can't tell you how cool that is. He's got this. It's weird, but I was ready for it.

So I settled in to make firm John's plan, which we'd written down before we left for Philmont and I couldn't find Monday. Huh. We never found it, but we did eventually remember the details. He's taking all dual enrollment this year: EMT certification, ENG 101 (or whatever kids these days are calling it). Next semester he'll take Western Civ and College Algebra. That's 3/4 time enrollment both semesters. He'll keep working. He'll look for a new ballroom dance class that he and his girlfriend can take (their instructor retired at the end of this year - a very sincere loss for the students, although likely a much-needed reprieve for the instructor). He's got one more shot at the ACT for scholarship money in September, then he'll apply to JSU in October. That's it. I'm not instructing him in anything this year. That, I was not ready for.

It's OK, though, as Jacob seems to be taking up the slack left by his brothers. This kid has a jam-packed schedule and he is so excited about it! This is his Freshman year. He's a highschooler. Forgive me, but how is Smidge in High School? It boggles the mind. He'll be taking Geometry, Old Western Culture Greeks for history and literature, Home2Teach writing classes, Rocketry (a two-hour class, plus competitions), Ballet (as many classes as they will let him and we can afford), and three foreign languages (Latin, Russian, Spanish).

His reasoning is that this is a good year to do some searching about what he wants to study more in-depth. (I think he's also thinking that 12 foreign language credits would be pretty cool to have, but I don't know that he really understands what third-year Russian, Spanish, and Latin will look like with Calculus, ballet, and a strong humanities program like OWC. However, if he's willing to work hard at it and give it a shot, I'm all in as the support team. He'll have time to adjust as he goes, if needed. If I've learned nothing else from homeschooling this long, I've learned at least that we can adapt and adjust as we go, and that it doesn't hurt to set the bar high.) I'm actually pretty excited about working with him this year.

The Littles (still thinking of a new moniker for them) and I have a much better plan for this year than whatever it is we've been doing: we'll be library schooling while Jacob is in ballet classes. We did a trial run yesterday and it was lovely: tea and poetry, literature, history. Bonus of being able to go find ANY book we might need if the spirit prods us during our study time. (That actually makes me feel less anxious about packing our books away to stage the house.) Since part of Jacob's plan involves turning drive time into foreign language time, they're also getting additional exposure to Spanish, at least. We do math, science, and other topics when we get home.

That's it. Just three. This is so weird.

But it's good. The goal was to raise them up to be self-sufficient, independent, functioning young men and that's what's happening. So, win! I may not have been prepared to lose two in the same year, but I've got no actual complaints.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, July 26

What A Ridiculously Long Month

I got home Sunday evening. It was wonderful to be home! I think the family actually missed me. Jase got up bright and early Monday to begin sharing with me every random thought he's had the last month. I think he saved them up, because they came hot and fast that morning. Em keeps hugging me Just Because. Z keeps smiling and saying, "I'm glad you're home."

The biggest indicator, however, seems to be the number of things they don't know the schedule for. When is the movie shoot? When does ballet start back? Are we taking Burritt classes this year? Can I do dual enrollment? Can we build a rocket? When are we going to the water park? I spent Monday finding answers more concrete than "soon" and planning the school year so we can begin it.

The concrete on the front porch has been repainted. The basement stairwell is textured and painted. Both are so lovely! I'd hoped to come home to boxes, but no boxes so far. That worked out well in the end, though, as I needed to pull out this year's books and set them aside. Today, perhaps, boxes.

I have so much appreciation for how they all worked together to take up the slack that my absence caused! Other than expressing it verbally, I've tapped into my joy at having this home, this family, this life, and I will remember to share that joy with them, as well. This month away was long, but it was a mental and spiritual sabbatical during which I had the room to breathe, to think, to align my priorities with my goals. This is some exciting stuff!

Other than the weather (it is July in the South), it is so good to be home!

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

Tuesday, June 27

Houston, We Are Clear

Labs are good!

WBC is slowly recovering from the Rituxan. Actually, all of the numbers that are out of bounds are the residual effects of the Rituxan, and they're all moving in the right direction from eight months ago.

Renal function is a-okay. (*whew* - seriously, that one makes me anxious - appreciate your kidneys, folks, and give them some water, OK?)

LDH - not spiking, which is a good indicator that there's nothing cancery running amok in the system at the moment.

We're still on for a sexy full-body PET scan in January. (IV, so no contrast to drink! W00t:! That sort of made my day, to be honest.) If that's clear, we can move on to every-two-years. I would like that. I would like that a LOT.

In January of 2020, EmBaby will be turning 14. Jase will be so very close to 12. That's a lot less scary than when they were 9 and 7. The older two boys will be getting established on their own, and Jacob will be looking his Senior year in the eye. I'm not willing to miss any of those things, but we'll have more latitude as a family to deal with whatever may be, then. Granted, we'd love to just not deal with it. That would also be fantastic. But for now? I'll take a two-year step. That's a good start.

In the meantime, and I'm not being trite when I say this, I'll keto-on. I hope to keep it at bay for as long as the laws of Physics and Biology will allow.

I'll also get another lipid panel and thyroid done, just as a set point/baseline, and to make sure everything's recovered in that arena. (But blood glucose today was 80. That's a happy number!)

There's not big exhale at this point, which is a shame. I was rather looking forward to one. We'll still wait until the January scan before taking out the port (which Z reminded me really should be done by a doctor, LOL -  it is a wonder he puts up with me).

And this is life, post-chemo. Long periods of laundry and driving, of reading and chatting, of praying and studying, punctuated by a couple of heart-racing hours at the lab or cancer center, and then, if we're lucky, back to the laundry and driving. Hard to write that in a way that's engaging, but it is good. It is so good.

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

Wednesday, June 21

New Schedules, New Days, New Foods

It's only mid-week and already the Littles miss their in-house IT man. 😄 I can fix  you up if you've got a gaping wound, need help deciphering new words, or learning how to cook. If you can't get into the something-admin-something of the something-mod in the something-world of Minecraft, though, you're just going to have to wait for your brother to get home. He seems happy with the new routine, and is stepping into it beautifully.

The rest of us are also getting used to this new schedule. It's weird. The Littles and I are on a solid one-week run of getting to the library (I know, it's a wonder they put up with us), and we may make it through June without any  more late fees if we keep this up. John's missing the Volvo (part is en route!) and would like to be independently mobile again, but he's been fantastic about communicating to make sure everyone's got the wheels they need when they need them to get where they need to be. Jacob seems to be all-in on his schedule, as far as dance goes. Not so much the academics, but it's a process. I hope.

I do think Z really enjoys the carpooling action, though. He hasn't had years of that daily commute time with the kids, so this is a nice treat for him to have some regular one-on-one time with James. No clue what they talk about, but they both seem content.

Our gear is arriving! My puffy jacket arrived! It fits! It's so warm! It's so exciting! I hope it's chilly enough to need it while we're there - that would be the best birthday surprise!

Also, I received my Pili Nuts order today. (Pronounced /pee'-lee/.) Before they'd arrived, I'd have told you that the customer service was really something special. The folks at Hunter-Gatherer Foods are a delight to do business with, and I was quite looking forward to checking out the Pili Nuts. Now that I've opened the bags and tried some of their product (the turmeric and black pepper, the raw cocao, and the coconut oil and salt), I will tell you that if you order some (and you should), get the bigger bags. You won't be sorry! I have found my new go-to trail snack, on-the-go snack, and "emergency" food. This is the kind of thing I'm absolutely asking Santa for at Christmas. I also think I'll need to order more before we leave. These four bags won't make it to departure day! (I am not making anything off this - this is just me, telling you about something I found that's pretty fantastic!)

John and I had our physicals today. We both appear healthy enough to the average physician and have the all-clear to head to Philmont! My pulse was a little high - as soon as the nurse called my name, my heart started doing jello-shots of adrenaline like it was ladies' night, and I could not calm down. Z laughed and said it's probably a wee bit of PTSD. I laughed, too, because it's absurd and he's probably right. But there's nothing I can do about it except roll with it. Maybe one day I can get to the point where a nurse can call me back without my body yelling, "Cops! Hide!" Or maybe it'll just be how I respond from now on. Who knows? I'm new at this, and probably bad at this, but thankful to have the opportunity to try, at any rate.

And on that note, I am going to grab a book and head to bed. We've got storms coming in off the tropical depression. We're safe here (just damp), but you all in the path of the storm, be careful, look out for one another, and check in when you can!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, June 19

More Prep and Random Things

James' security clearance is good to go, and he starts actual work-work today. I suspect the good Lord let it drag out so long in order to help him be truly excited to work. 😏 Good stuff. He just finished taking his first professional certification, passed it, and he's on his way. It is very exciting to see your grown child follow his passion.

The guys think they've figured out why the Volvo keeps shearing bolts at the alternator. That's more exciting than it should be, but there you have it. We're easily pleased and appreciative. Also, it's NOT a $200 part! That just made it even better, as far as I'm concerned!

I've got the keto menu plan for Philmont just about nailed down. Now it's just a matter of buying the stuff and getting it portioned out. I put powdered heavy cream and powdered eggs on my list. Need to pick up packets of mustard and those little salt and pepper packets, too. If Z hadn't been working on the Volvo, the roast would be dehydrated by now. As it stands, I'm a little nervous about taking trail food that we haven't field tested... eee.

If these kids would just stop needing rides for a week or so, that'd be super helpful (although that's why Z's been working on the Volvo, so six of one, half a dozen of the other). I thought the Bigs would be able to haul the Littles at some point, but they went and got jobs. What's up with their responsibility getting in the way of my payoff? (Not really complaining, well... maybe a little.) Uber needs to set up a NannyCar option - background screened drivers with in-car video on CCTV and offsite storage. I could use that...

But, that said, our Philmont gear order is beginning to arrive. John's puffy jacket, sock liners, our pack covers and sleeping pads. My teeniny camp stove! I have to tell you, I. am. geeking. out over how little this stuff weighs! WOW! Mad love for technology and development! I'm guessing we'll be a lot more comfortable in-camp, as well, than I ever was on the trail. THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!

What's got you excited this month?

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

Wednesday, June 7

The Gauntlet Is Run!


Whoa, y'all. That was an insanely busy week. I am not going to bore you with the logistics (there were many, and they are boring), but it was a gauntlet. And we made it! It was a little bittersweet.

Thankfully, it was a gauntlet filled with good fun, great people, and fat little baby legs! Ohhh, that makes everything do-able. (It also highlighted that nobody left in my house has squishable thighs. Also, that it would be weird if I checked.)


My sister-in-law, y'all? She is a Rock Star! I love her so much, and I hope my brother-in-law does, too, because we must keep her forever and ever. (And how very far away we are -  I need her closer.)

While the family was here, we took them fishing one day and to the water park the next. We got a pontoon boat and spent a day on the river, then a day of rambling about in the woods.



(Z got to do most of the fun stuff - I was running a parallel activity plan that involved hauling children to and from Space Camp, ballet performances, and a photo shoot. So I missed some of the fun in my alternative life as an Uber driver*.)


Finally, there was Space Academy graduation and a day exploring the Space and Rocket Center, followed by the graduation weekend - ceremony one day, party the next.


We saw them off on Monday and then sort of liquefied in the living room - it looked like a crime scene in here, with limbs draping off edges and debris all over the floor (it rained the day of the party - three cheers for hard floors that don't care!) We rested and came down from the high of spending time with friends and family.

Tuesday was about all I could handle on the not caring part, though, and so we cleaned. And cleaned. And sighed contentedly.

Now it's time to look ahead. Jacob is at rocketry camp this week, in preparation for joining a competitive rocket team in the fall. He's quite looking forward to that.

James starts work at his internship on Friday, and I can't even begin to tell you how excited he is about that!

John had tooth extractions this week, to prepare him for braces. He's excited about that all being done and is running his own gauntlet this week. But it'll be good soon.

I guess the rest of us should consider a plan for the Fall, and some ideas for Summer. First, though, we'll give thanks -- for opportunities, for fellowship, for savoring the bittersweet of life and time.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

* Not actually for Uber, but now that I think about it, this is totally going on my application when I apply...

Wednesday, May 31

Fast Arrivals and Sudden Stops

The family has arrived! They pulled in on Sunday evening, and as quickly as they entered, all progress on the house gave way to time enjoying baby giggles and cousin laughter.

Z's taken them fishing and to the water park. He is a larger-than-life figure, and I think he's enjoying it just as much as they are.

Tomorrow, we take a pontoon out on the river for a day of cruising and cove exploration! We've got the menu planned and the route figured out. The nephews will get a chance to pilot a boat beneath the bridge if they're very good. (Probably even if they're not. But they're good kids, so I'd put money on making it happen.)

I didn't go fishing, but got to stay behind and hold the newest addition to the family - a wee baby with scrunchy-faced expressions and laughter that starts in the toes! I also got to visit (in the comfort of climate controlled, upholstered space) with my dear Sister-in-Law for a bit. I've gotta say, my Brother-in-Law married quite a gem. She is just fantastic.

I didn't make it to the water park, either. Jacob needed ferrying from point A to point B, back to point A, and again to point B, and so on... We had inadvertently overbooked this week. He thought he hadn't received the Space Academy scholarship (he hadn't expected to, since he did receive it last year), so he committed to the school sketches at the ballet school, which take place the same week. About a month later, they received more funding and went through the applicants to see who else they could award it to. His application passed the second round. It was a wonderful conundrum - but one that required a good deal of logistics and a wee bit of heckling to make it happen. He made it, though, to all the rehearsals and tonight's performance, and he's thoroughly engaged and having a successful camp experience.

He also napped in the car for about an hour before the show. I don't blame him. You can only go 90 mph for so long before you have to stop.

And rest.

Which is what we've all been doing this week with the family, and it's been nice!

We'll need to muster some spring in our gait before this weekend, though. It's about to get busy!

I hope your last week of May is going beautifully!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, May 27

It feels so good to succeed.

(I found this in my drafts folder from 2008. It made me smile. I thought it should see the light of day.)

We all know that it feels good to succeed. We all know the power of praise well-earned. I think we (and by that, I mean "I") fall into the trap of wanting to praise perfection, and feeling exasperated by failures or struggles.

But life is full of failures and struggles. How we handle them is one true measure of success. (And perfection? Just throw that one out the window. It's overrated and stressful. Blech.) It doesn't take much to say simple things that have a strong impact on guiding how they learn to handle the struggles and failures:

I'm proud of you for sticking that one out.

You really put a lot of thought into that, and it shows. Good job.

Wow, you did it! *big smile*

Whew, that one used to be tricky, but it looks like you've mastered it.

Well done.

Slow down, I know you can do it.

It's okay. You gave it a good shot. We can try again tomorrow. How about we do...

You got farther today than you did before. Excellent.

Feels good to tackle a challenge, doesn't it?

And if it doesn't feel good to tackle a challenge? Well, then it's worth looking into why. That'll be different for everyone. I know when I'm not up for tackling a challenge, it's usually due to one of three things: I don't feel like I have the tools to tackle it; I don't have a clear idea of what, exactly, I'm supposed to do with it; I don't feel like I've got somebody in my corner on it. While I haven't done any official studies (and even if I had, I wouldn't be able to cite them because my organizational skills are deplorable), but my guess is that people often fear (or avoid...) taking on a challenge because of something very similar to that list.

The wonderful thing is that we can be a positive resource to eliminating those barriers. If we listen and provide presence and understanding, we can help them free themselves up to tackle the challenge, clear the hurdle, create the metaphor!

Be encouraged! (I added that bit tonight, but it seems appropriate)

~ Dy

Friday, May 26

"This Week's Plan"

Did I really say that? (I did. On May 18th, those words were committed to the internet.) Oh, that is so cute. So optimistic. So filled with... amnesia and wonder.

Baseboard Log, Day 7:

We. are. nowhere. NEAR. done. What optimistic fit or palsy made me think that was a one-week job? The dining room is 90% done. The living room is about 30% done. We've done one leg in the kitchen.

The den? It's done where there aren't book cases, which essentially means one corner that doesn't have a wall long enough for book cases... so that probably doesn't count.

Oh! And the hallway! I've done the hallway! And cleared the foyer... enough to see the bits that aren't done (also not terribly helpful).

Today, we did two doors, as well. We were on a roll. They're so pretty. But I'm considering just doing the doors and maybe letting the kids string garland around the rest of the baseboards? Glitter? Great Stuff?

So, there is progress, but the next time I refer to something as "this week's plan," someone ask me if I remember the last time I said that, OK?

Be encouraged! Or just laugh along with the rest of us!

~ Dy

Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering

Yes, it's time. Academics have been officially suspended (except for John's anatomy test, which he did, and then I think we decluttered it before he could turn it in - oops) and we are now in full-on Beast Mode on this house.

We have no duct tape. I don't know, exactly, how this happened, but it's true. (I suspect there are hand-crafted slippers or a wallet somewhere, lying beside an empty cardboard roll, but I can't prove it.)

We re-hung the dry erase board. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's been floating homelessly around the house ever since we bought the World's Best Couch two years ago. The World's Best Couch took up the space where both the previous couch and the desk/office area had been, and I took the board down because I didn't want people standing on the couch to draw on the board. Even with an extra wall, though (the one we built, which was triggered by the couch), we have little wall space (because I keep covering it with book shelves, I know, I'm sorry). But we found a spot, and yesterday, we made it official. I am so looking forward to not having to lift that thing up from wherever it's leaning so I can vacuum!

Em and Jase also finished getting the Big Blue 1 off of it yesterday. (I'd used it to hold a t-shirt for Jase's Animal Crossing cosplay so I could make sure the 1 was straight as I painted it on - but hadn't thought about the fact that spray paint would go straight through and stick to the board. D'oh! It's had a giant blue number 1 on it for a year as we have slowly, persistently, semi-diligently removed it.) So, for white boards, yesterday was pretty much a banner day.

We cleared out a few cabinets, too. We had four rolls of freezer paper, three of cling wrap, and a million brown paper bags. The freezer paper is Z. My mother never wanted to run out of Kleenex; Z never wants to run out of freezer paper. I get that. But I could not figure out what kind of crazy person would just tuck paper bags into random cabinets... WHY? Then I remembered, we used to use the paper bags to hold chips when we made them... Aaaandd, that I am the crazy person. I basically unearthed ten years of paper bag stuffing that I had done and forgotten about. Huh. Dementia is going to be a hoot with me. Anyway, there was massive headway in the cabinet department, but it's not terribly satisfying unless you look inside the cabinets. Which I may ask you to do if you come over.

Z and the boys finished the flood lights for the lower drive and installed a patio light beneath the balcony. People who arrive after dark no longer need arrive IN the dark. I'm so proud of us! All three of them are a bit stiff in the shoulders from working overhead for a few days, but the end results are worth it. Or at least Z thinks so. The boys haven't complained, either, and John did appreciate the light when he pulled in from work last night. Yay!

James is working on his piano piece for graduation. He won't practice without headphones, though, so I have no idea how it's coming along.

Jacob's getting stoked about Space Camp, Rocketry Camp, and Summer Intensive for ballet. That kid. He's a happy one.

I'm honestly just hoping and praying the graduation party is enjoyable for the guests and that we haven't trashed the house. That's my big goal. That, and I'm looking forward to taking the babies to the water park while they're here. And Big Springs Park, to feed the fish. And the Early Works Museum. And, and, and... I'm just very excited about having our nieces and nephews *here*! Woot!

Meanwhile, back to decluttering and painting...

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Thursday, May 25

College Orientation

James attended Orientation over the weekend. It was a two-day, high-energy, non-stop infopalooza. All good stuff. All things they need to know.

All things they've said at Admitted Student Day...

And the overnight campus visit...

And the Honors Orientation.

Wee!

I mentioned to Z that this was killing me. It's all on the website. It's all in the printed material. Whyyyyyy are they doing this? But then Z said something that put it all in perspective: maybe it's not just ours.

Maybe they need to hear it in different ways, at different times, for it to sink in. There IS a lot of information. And youth are not known (generally speaking) for their ability to internalize the process of filing information away so that they know where to find it when they need it. Plus, their entire world is upending all at once. That's disorienting enough.

The director of the events (he has an official title, but I can't remember it - very nice man, though) said that most people don't realize it's the same material, repackaged. He also said that in spite of the repetition and hammering, there will be students who say, "I didn't know we had free tutoring," or, "Nobody told me we have a career center."

I let that sink in for a moment, then told him I'd leave the student, but I was going to slip out for coffee. Then I promised not to call him to ask how I pay my bill.

Then I bookmarked the log in page for info. Because if I've learned anything in my decades on this Earth, it's "Don't trust yourself to remember anything. Write it down."

When I picked up James, he had notes. In his own handwriting. And he's referred to them a couple of times this week. I'll be honest with you, that gave me more encouragement than any grand plan or vision he could have come up with. I'm so proud!

Be encouraged! And take notes!

~ Dy

Wednesday, May 24

More Progress, and Food

Four days until the family arrives! A week and a half until graduation! I feel dazed. We've kind of done it. We've raised a decent, fairly wonderful human!

Today, we buy food! I love grocery day! We stuck to our budget, which means I was filled with gratitude the other morning that Z hadn't seasoned the rice in the pot when he made fried rice for the kids. That freed the leftovers (that hadn't gotten fried) to make sweet rice for them one morning. Granted, I didn't think about checking before I made the sweet rice... It could have gone down as one of the stranger meals Mom has offered them. Serendipity!

Just to keep things interesting, though, I did throw some leftover acorn squash into the egg bake yesterday morning. That sounded brilliant and delectable in my head, but it didn't work. The flavor was lovely and the texture was that of soggy bread. Not a great choice, but it did use up the last bits of leftover veggies!

We Kon Mari'd the snot out of our clothing yesterday. I now have nothing anywhere that doesn't fit, or that I do not love, except my Scout shirt (which is both too big and not that attractive, but that's fine, it does its job). Same with the older boys. Woohoo! The Littles will likely outgrow anything they own, whether they love it or not, in the next month, anyway. So I'm not worrying about them.

I tried to move on to books, thinking I could surely clear out one book case of books. But, no. That is not going to happen. I have shunted books out of here regularly for years, and yesterday I got a little stabby at the thought of parting with any that we still have left. Next up, though? Magazines! I am not a keeper of magazines, but my hoarder children are. They have 12 years of Boys' Life, Birds and Blooms, American Rifleman, Game Informer, and Alabama Living (our elec. co-op magazine - really? We keep those?) OUT! Time to go! That may net us an additional 10 square feet of living space!

Not sure what's next after that. Z and I are in negotiations about the ceiling. I want to paint the panels first, then install them and touch them up. He wants to get them up, then paint them. We view painting an in-place ceiling very differently. He doesn't think it's that big a deal. I, having painted this one twice already, and being familiar with how it plays out for me, would rather remove an already in-place ceiling in order to paint it on sawhorses. So. It'll be fun to see what we do. (I say "fun", but honestly, it's fear. My fear is that he'll agree to paint it in place, since it's not that big a deal - to him - but THEN, once it's up, he'll realize that he has a bazillion things to do, which he does, and expect to pass it off to me so he can get to the other things. He will not think this should be a problem, and I'll get stuck saying nassy werds while painting an in-place ceiling. Hence, the negotiations. Very important going in when you know you have different ideas of what's "not that big a deal". It's a marital life saver!)

And that's about it. It's raining, raining, raining, here. Everything is damp and muddy. All the leaves are a brilliant, clean, sparkly green. Through the windows, from the climate-controlled inside, it's gorgeous out there! (But I'm glad we'll be working indoors today.)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, May 22

Waiting Games and Schedules

We're in a holding pattern on the potential news, so I figured while we wait, we could at least hammer out the details on the coming months' schedules. I got about halfway through June. That was not impressive, at all, and there's not much I can do about it. But, hey, that's four weeks farther out than I had planned when I sat down, right?

We've got one week until the family starts arriving from out of town. We had two, but once they could sit down with their schedules, they realized they'd have to bump it up if they wanted to stay longer than just the weekend. We get that (boy, do we get it). If you're going to spend four days on the road, you want your actual visit to be equal to the drive time, if not longer. I'm glad they'll be able to stay long enough to get out and play around in North Alabama. It's a gorgeous area, and it's totally new to them, so that will be fun.

(I don't know if Z has filled them in yet on my plans to get them to help hang drywall and ceiling panels. Yes, that cuts into the "vacation" aspect, but tell me you wouldn't tap your 6'8" brother-in-law to help hoist ceiling panels if he were going to be around when you were working with them? Otherwise, we're stuck with my short self, with my poor depth perception and tiny dinosaur arms. This will be much better!)

Granny will get to see Jacob perform in the end-of-year performances for ballet, and they'll get to see the Space Academy graduation, as well as James' graduation ceremony. It hit me tonight, while thinking how special that will be for them to have her there, just how much we all miss out on in the family when we live so far apart. All of those special, but common, things kids do get lost in the white noise of having to do all your interacting on social media. We haven't seen our nieces and nephews play or perform or do service projects, at all. That's a little bittersweet. We're thankful for the social media that allows us to share photos and see videos, but how much better would it be to hug those sweet babies and kiss their little cheeks?

So the new plan, as given to the Littles during their bedtime liturgy, is that tomorrow is:

School
House prep

The plan for Tuesday is school and house prep.

The plan for the next fortnight is school and house prep.

Man, am I wishing we'd wrapped up school in April! Didn't see that coming.

If it gets too hairy (or harried) by Friday, we may drop school and instead study Dynamic Home Management and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Decluttering. That sounds like a fascinating one-week intensive course, yes?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, May 21

Ketogenic Backpacking

So, Philmont released the 2017 trek menus. I printed them off and settled in with a highlighter and a glass of water to go through and see what I'd have to substitute in order to survive the week.

I took a quick look and promptly switched out my water for coffee, kicked off my shoes, popped open Chronometer, and settled in for a day-long task. Turns out that, with the exception of a meat stick at Breakfast on Day 1 and a couple of packets of chicken along the way, I'll have to substitute everything. All of it. Wow.

Honestly, the biggest surprise was how much of the food they provide has Aspartame in it (a regular appearance in the sports drinks they provide "for electrolytes"). I was ready for the carbs (that's a pretty standard backpacking approach), but not for that! If you've been a reader here for any length of time, you know how I feel about Aspartame. So, I'll be packing substitutes for John, and extras for anyone who will listen. I don't mind carrying extra, if it keeps the boys from ingesting that stuff. Blech.

Research on the web for keto backpacking ideas returns mostly forum threads filled with people extolling the OP with rather unsolicited advice on why they would never do that. (Which is, of course, entirely useless, but people don't ask themselves if what they're about to say is actually helpful for the person they're responding to. They say what they want to say, regardless of the information requested. I want to lament the decline of civilization, but I think there have been people who know what they know since the dawn of time. Nothing new, here.) It's still relatively unhelpful, though. I mean, if you are living in nutritional ketosis, and you want to go hiking, you're going to need to eat. And if you're doing it intentionally, then you likely have very good reasons for doing it, and you're asking for information that will help you do it well. Perhaps even pleasantly. Imagine.

I found a great Ketogenic Backpackers group on Facebook, and have been in a wonderful Keto group for a while (not for backpacking, but for nutritional support), so I've been fortunate to amass a wealth of ideas on how to do this. Hopefully, by posting them here, as well, we can make them available to others.

Some of my breakfast substitutions (I don't generally eat breakfast, but I'd rather have it on me and pass it off to a Scout than to be dying out there and wish I'd packed some!):

Powdered eggs, pre-cooked bacon, keto coffee (coffee, powdered heavy cream, powdered MCT oil - from here on out, just called "coffee")

Hard sausages, hard cheeses, bulletproof coffee

Powdered eggs with dehydrated veggies and meats (in a semblance of an omelet), coffee

Epic bar, coffee


Since we eat eggs almost every day, I doubt I'll get tired of this rotation over the course of 12 days.

I'm also working on lunch and dinner substitutions, which I'll share, as well. Then I'll plug in the data and make sure I'm giving myself about a 20% overage from my daily intake. I'll definitely need to up my fat -- I pulled on shorts this morning, went to button them, and realized they were already zipped and buttoned! So I probably ought to splurge on some new shorts, as well.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Saturday, May 20

Hiking. And Ticks.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, May 19

Little Things

There are so many Little Things that make up day-to-day life, things we take for granted and assume a general knowledge about. Parenthood has a way of highlighting some of the more humorous (the things you never thought you'd have to spell out), or the more mortifying (love that parroting stage...), and each stage of parenting covers new aspects of those Little Things.

Today, we were talking about how the Graduation Party is really the first time your student is an adult at a party - he's the host, the greeter, has responsibilities of making sure to do the rounds and thank each guest for attending.

The kids have always been great about party prep and being gracious -- offering tea and refills, clearing places at the table, pitching in on the pre-party cleaning and set up. I hadn't given any thought to the fact that this would be his first time being "on" at a party. Usually once the guests arrive, the kids splinter off to go play Werewolf or The Resistance, into the meadow for airsoft, or up to the fire ring for a campfire. They do their thing. The kids are good hosts to other kids, but how does it look different for a young person to be a good host to other adults?

In a lot of ways, it's no different - you greet everyone, offer drinks, show them the food. If they're new, show them the Good Bathroom and give them a heads up about snakes by the creek (because both are just generally appreciated). But in some ways, it's very different. I realized we hadn't necessarily articulated the difference, but I'd like to.

In keeping with our mantra to "set them up to succeed," it makes sense to give a fledgling a heads up about some of the new bits, or more nuanced aspects of being the host. (This is brainstorming at its finest, here, so please feel free to add any you can think of, too!)

* Be on hand to greet people as they arrive and take an active role in getting them introduced.

* Spend intentional time visiting with each of the guests, more than just your buddies or peers.

* Accept help - if you're still setting something up, or finishing something in the kitchen when guests arrive, and they ask how they can help, give them something to do. They'll enjoy being able to participate, you'll have company while you work, and everything will be done sooner so you can all enjoy kicking back and visiting.

* Keep an eye out for guests who may feel uncomfortable, or who may not know others at the party. Introduce them around, bring up things they have in common with other guests as a topic of discussion to help them find their groove.

* Keep an eye on the food and drink - keep it full. There's something about abundance that creates a willingness to partake. People are far less likely to take some salad, or a beverage, if there's only a bit in the bowl or cooler. Make it easy for people to enjoy themselves by maintaining a sense that there is plenty and they are welcome to it.

* As guests leave, you really need to get up and see them off, personally. A bit more than a wave good-bye from your game of cards that children can pull off.

These are all pretty universally applicable to any hosted event. For the Grad, there's the added element of graciously receiving gifts and then remembering to mark down who gave you what so that your thank you notes are personal and clear.

And, of course, the actual writing of thank you notes.

...the mailing of thank you notes.

I need to buy stamps.

So, what are some of your favorite tips for young men and women as they make the transition from "kid" to "host"?

Thursday, May 18

Prepping the House

Ohhhh, are we back in the thick of it!

This week's plan is spiffing up the trim. (Have I mentioned that when we build a house it will have gunite walls and no trim? Still stand by that claim. Monolith architecture needs to experience a serious rise in popularity! Down with trim!) That said, fresh, lovely trim is very satisfying.

Pre-rehab, put up but never finished.

We got the trim up on the new wall, but never got it finished (stupid cancer). The rest of the house trim is a terrible combination of Learning Curve and Decades Old. Some spots have both! Wee!

So I put together a bin this week: the baseboard rehabilitation bin. It contains everything you'd need to fix up your baseboards.

* Sponge
* Hammer, trim nails, and nail set
* Stud finder
* Wood putty
* Sanding block
* Painter's caulk
* Painter's tape
* Paint brushes
* Paint
* Paper towels

The idea is that if you have half an hour (or 20 minutes, or even five minutes, I don't care), grab the bin, pick a bit of baseboard, and give it some love. If you only get it washed, nails set, and wood putty on before you need to go do something else, that's great. That's a lot farther ahead than we were ten minutes ago! Good job! With everything already together, there's no time spent gathering, which is huge. So far, we've had good success.

Rehabbed and lovely!
We're also cleaning the stairwell to the basement, getting that prepped for drywall and stain this weekend. I'm crazy excited to show you that once it's done. (Right now, I don't even want my family to look - nothing is attractive part way through the de-griming process. One friend described it as satisfying in a vacuum-lines-in-carpet meets pimple popping sort of way. She nailed it. *gag* And yet, very exciting.)

Also this week, we've prepped the front porch for patching the chipped concrete. Once that's done, we'll let it cure and hopefully get it painted before the party.

So, plenty to keep us busy this week!

Be encouraged!
~ Dy

Wednesday, May 17

I Got Stumped, But for Good Reason

There was a job opening for a position that, if I were to describe my ideal job, would be this job. I'm afraid I would pretty much upend my entire lifestyle to get it, and ask my wonderful family to jump through flaming hoops to help me make it happen (of course, we phrase it differently, don't we? "We'll all be in this together," which sounds great, but the reality is that other than the money, it would all have been for me.) Still, dream job. Open now. That's hard to not at least gawk at on your way past.

It was so very tempting to apply, even though I don't meet a good many of the requirements. Several friends encouraged me to apply, citing that I do meet a good many of the requirements. I thought I would give it a try, but I needed some writing pieces to showcase for the application.

And that's when I got writer's block.

About eating! Food! Nutrition and healing!

Really?

Could there be any clearer sign that this is not the right time for me to be looking for another outside-the-home job? I didn't think so. I sat quietly and thought for a few days. No words came. I sat some more. Last night, I had peace about the whole thing. Do I still want the job? Oh, heavens, yes. I want a job doing what I love (talking to people about healing their bodies with nutrition), learning every day (staying up on the science and new developments), and traveling (we've discussed my bohemian tendencies and my struggle to give them the occasional healthy outlet - thank you, homeschooling and day trips). I want a job where I'm the dumbest person in the room and I can absorb the wisdom of those around me. I want to work in an industry that actually improves lives, creates health, supports healing.

But I already have a job very much like that, and it's a full-time job that deserves full-time attention. Although I'm graduating one this year, there's another one next year. He's pretty set, but he's not ready to be on his own. Another coming down the pike in four years. Those two Littles at the end? They still need to be introduced to authors and stories, to poems and songs. They are still learning the ins and outs of how to read deeply, how to organize their thoughts, how to share their ideas. They haven't had Logic yet! I can't move my focus away from them yet. They need me just as much now as the Bigs have needed me the last 12 years.

I will have other jobs, other opportunities, but they will not have other childhoods.

I'm glad I clued in before I put us smack in the middle of what truly would have turned out to be a 3-ring circus. (Not because people can't work from home and teach -- hundreds of thousands of us do that every year. This is wholly about me and my limitations, my abilities, and the importance of putting my resources where they're needed, when they're needed.) But it's a good thing. A good place to be.

Besides, we've got enough other irons in the fire right now. Potentially some big news on deck for the whole family (that's really good for the whole family!) Party plans, Summer schedules, Confirmation classes, and time enough to keep us busy.

Best case of writer's block, ever.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy