Monday, July 7, 2014

Road Trip!

And we're off...like a herd of turtles through a peanut butter sea!
Wednesday, July 2

I left my house messier than I wanted to, and later than I wanted to, with Olivia (17), Jesse (5), a van full of stuff and the harp that seems to like to spend the summer seeing America. We headed out of town and watched the world get greener. We marveled at the backs of many large trucks through various construction zones which brought us to the customary standstill and added the requisite two hours to our driving time. Jesse was a trooper and we arrived safe and sound at the gracious home of a cousin I hadn't seen since I was a girl of about 8 or 9 years old.

Going 0mph. Good thing Arkansas is pretty.
The greeting was warm, even though the hour was late. Of course there was food, this is the South, y'all. We ate, visited and the old folks (for the record, I am an 'old folk') and little kids turned in while the young folks stayed talking into the night, finding out all of the things they have in common. It was sweet to see Olivia so excited to share her love for music, offbeat comedy, rare words and other quirky things with her newfound cousins and have them share her enthusiasm.

Thursday, July 3

Through the morning and into the early afternoon, I got to know my cousins, one I had seen maybe three or four times in my life, and all of those when I was very young. The other, I'd never met at all. Their mother is my dad's only sister. My dad and aunt lost track of each other after their mother died in the '70's. My uncle never stopped looking for this sister and earlier this year, he found her. She and her daughters live not too far from where my dad and his siblings grew up, just an hour and a half or so from where my uncle lives now. My dad died in 2005, so it brings me a great deal of pleasure and comfort to know where my aunt is and that she is well. My cousins are entirely delightful women, who I long to know more. They are beautiful and funny and kind. Maybe some of it will rub off. There are no photos. I am a loser.

Look! It's the Boxcar Children! A train car is a cool place to spend the night!

We left the comfort of family for the open road, our little band of travelers, and made our way to Chattanooga, TN, to the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, where we checked in to our very own sleeping car for the night. Now that was fun! Our car had a queen bed and a daybed and trundle, with a bathroom and all the other accommodations the three of us would need for the night. It was cozy, and all wonderfully Victorian. We loved it! The bad news was that there was no getting the harp up the steps and through the passageway into the room, so we checked it behind the desk. The good news was that Olivia got to tune and play a little in the lovely and acoustically amazing lobby of the hotel the next morning to a small but appreciative audience.

Friday, July 4

One of the passengers is not convinced
of the safety of the Incline Railway
We took in a couple of the wonders of Chattanooga: the Incline Railway and Rock City. The railway was interesting and fun, Rock City was beautiful with lots of walking up and down steps. The weather was perfect and we had a great time with each other. Jesse was such great little sightseer! He loved everything we saw and wondered at the big and small things around every turn. He asked loads of questions and came up with interesting theories and was just plain fun to be with.

We stayed pretty late, grabbed Krystal burgers (growing up, we called 'em gut bombers - I still love 'em!) on our way out of town, and watched fireworks as we drove a couple of hours through the mountains to Dillard, GA, where we checked in to the Holiday Inn Express just before midnight. As I was checking us in, the desk attendant turned away at least five others looking for rooms. It was Friday night, and a holiday, but this was a tiny town in far north Georgia and she's telling these poor souls that there is not going to be a room for at least an hour in any direction. Grateful for our reservation, I check us in and we move in, settle in and shut it down for the night.

Saturday, July 5

We slept in, took our time getting around and checked out at 11, with a couple of hours to do some last minute shopping and grab lunch before taking Olivia to Rabun Gap Nacoochie School (ever heard of Foxfire magazine? It started here.) for two weeks of harping. Again, no pictures. Worst mom ever. The school is interesting to me, as it is a functioning boarding school and day school in the fall, winter and spring. The notion just gives me such pause. Students from grades 5-12 live there, an idea which, jokes about whether they take mid-year transfers via FedEx aside, is very foreign to my homeschooling mind. It is a beautiful campus, in a beautiful part of the country and my baby will be fine there for the two weeks I'm willing to let them have her, but make no mistake, I will be running back to get her at the end of the session and I will hug her and kiss her and will possibly try to fold her up into my pocket when I get her back. Our world is off its axis when one of our people is missing.

When Olivia was settled, checked in, toured and oriented, Jesse and I left. We drove to Atlanta, left the van in a park'n'fly lot, took a shuttle to the airport, where we caught the sky train to a hotel, checked in and promptly donned our bathing suits because by golly, we had earned ourselves a swim. It has taken him until age 5½, but my Tiny Wonder is getting the hang of swimming and he swam and swam in that pool and I watched him and watched him because Mama does not have any desire to immerse herself in cold water, nothankyouverymuch. Back in the room, he took a bath to get warm and I ordered an indulgent room service bedtime snack of cookies, milk and ice cream. We ate, drank, and slept.

Sunday, July 6

We got up at 5, were out the door just after 5:30 for our 7:10 flight. Back on the sky train to the terminal, we checked in and made it through security. This was Jesse's first experience flying since he was an infant, so he was fascinated and so curious. Seeing this whole process through five-year-old eyes ought to be mandatory for every traveler at least once. We had fun. Every part of the day was interesting and glorious and worth noting and something to be remarked on. This kid has a theory about everything. Many of them are pretty plausible, and all of them are entertaining. My favorite exchange of the day, probably of the trip, was when our plane from Atlanta to Dallas got above the cloud cover:

Me: Look! We're above the clouds! See how the clouds go out as far as you can see? All the people  under there are having a cloudy day, maybe even a rainy day, but up above the clouds, the sun is always shining.

Jesse: That's just like Jesus. Even when we're having a bad time, he's always our Savior and he's always shining.

He gets it.

We landed in Dallas, took the train from terminal A to terminal C, spotted Charley Pride, caught our flight home, Jesse got to sit in the cockpit and I got to take my Sunday afternoon nap in my own bed.

I love road trips!










Saturday, May 12, 2012

Just Another Frantic Friday

How did May get so stinkin' busy? Back in January, after a nice long Christmas break, I was all, "Just get me through April, Lord!" And, make no mistake, April was b-i-z-z-y. In fact, April's busy-ness actually began in March with a week-long trip to North Carolina for training in my new role as a Support Manager with Classical Conversations. It was a great time of deep thinking surrounded by some really brilliant folks who love God and are passionate about Christian, Classical home education. The highlights for me, by far, were the long, deep discussions I had with CC's founder, Leigh Bortins. Her determination to equip and inspire parents to disciple their children unto the Lord is unflagging, and the lengths to which she is personally willing to go to accomplish that is, in a word, awesome. Of course, April was full of end-of-year homeschool stuff and prep work for the homeschool conventions, then came the actual 6-day stretch of the two events (color me pooped!), followed by a week of standardized tests, piano recitals and competitions and wrap-up/follow-up of the conventions. Next week, the kids and I will be joining CC families from OK and TX at Great Wolf Lodge, next Friday is Hannah's 21st birthday (WHAT!?!), then there's an OCHEC board meeting followed by a 3-day speaking engagement at a local homeschool event. I am by no means complaining. It's the good kind of busy, and most of what's on the calendar is stuff we do as a family, but I'm just caught a little off guard by how full this month has gotten. Around here, a full month seems to coincide with a full laundry hamper and an empty pantry. I must remedy both tomorrow.

Friday, May 11, 2012

So...whatcha dooooin'?

Hey. It's me. Dana. Are we there yet?

It's May, which makes me want to go camping. Not camping camping, mind you. What I really want to do is load up the kids, stake our claim in a cabin somewhere (indoor plumbing? yes, please!) and spend a week or so drinking my morning coffee outside and drinking in the family I love so much. Maybe we'll get around to that this year.

I've been looking back through pictures and watching digital videos and feeling all "Sunrise, Sunset"-y. I've read back through the posts on this blog and the old, defunct blog and realized that a LOT of life just keeps whizzing by, and that I rather like having these little word-picture snapshots. Here are a few that come to mind...

I miss my mom. I don't say it, I don't Facebook it, but I miss her. I just combed through tens of thousands of digital photos to find all of the video snippets of her so I could hear her voice. And then I thanked God for digital video recordings and thought of all the people all through time who never heard that voice once it was silenced on Earth. It's not a particularly remarkable voice, but it's the one that plays on the tape in my head, and I miss hearing it with my ears. Mom did not like to be photographed or recorded. I don't either. Looking through my photos, though, makes me want set aside my preference in favor of recording the only mom my kids will have. I'm surely not remarkable, but I love them with all that is in me, and that is worth capturing.

We have seven kids now. ZOINKS! The original five are still around. Hannah will be 21 next week, Olivia is 15, Seth is 12, Claire is 7 and Jesse is 3. We are also honored to be caring for two children in foster care, a toddler girl and baby boy. Baby Boy will be going home to his mom in the near future. Interesting story...and one that is still being written. I'll tell more of it another time. Toddler Girl's situation is complicated, which means that we could have the pleasure of her company for a long time. Again, more on that another time. It's busy, messy and loud here, and that's a good thing.

We did the homeschool conventions last week. Six days straight of setting up, conventioning, taking down, setting up, conventioning, and taking down. It was exhausting and glorious. Just about the time we all get good and rested up, it will be time to do it again, which is fine by me. In talking to a friend, I described it as planning all year for a week-long party, and then having all of your favorite people show up. Do you homeschool? Do you attend a homeschool convention regularly? I highly recommend it.

I've got thoughts, funny stories and goo gobs of things I hope to remember and write down. Let's see if I can do it before another year goes by...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In the Good Old Summer Time

Last July, as I recall it, was hot. Looking at my calendar from that month, I see that Mom was in the thick of doctor appointments and chemotherapy. She was committed to the chemo, but Iwish she hadn't done it. It made her so sick and SO not herself. When the cancer was discovered, the lung tumor was quite large and it had spread to her liver and bones. She was in a lot of pain in her back, and I'm glad her doctor was committed to providing her with all the pain relief she needed, but the chemo didn't make anything better. I hope I have the courage to ask my doctors the difficult questions should I find myself in a similar situation.

Anyhoo.

The highlight of last July was the trip to Salt Lake City with Olivia to participate in a week-long harp intensive. I LOVE driving trips and I adore one-on-one time with my kids! Olivia was performing in a summer theater production the weekend before the harp institute, so I drove first to Colorado Springs to stay a couple of days with my dearest and bestest friend ever, and then on to Salt Lake City where I collected my girl from the airport when she flew in ALL BY HERSELF. Well, of course, there was a pilot or two, some flight attendants and assorted other personages, but MY BABY GOT ON A PLANE BY HERSELF. She flew as a 'UM', unaccompanied minor, so she was shepherded and supervised by airline personnel, but, when she got off the plane, you'd have thought I was snatching her from the jaws of death the way I grabbed her and kissed her whole face. Which, as you can guess, she LOVED. Or not.

The Salt Lake City trip was a really nice time for us. Olivia spent her days playing harp with girls from all over the country and we spent our evenings with some generous family friends who showed us around and kept us company. Some of the highlights:

Driving to Colorado Springs and then to Salt Lake City by myself was one of the coolest things I've ever done. I think I need to do something like this once a year or so just for good measure.

Olivia got permission from her father to ride on a DONOR CYCLE with his childhood friend Hoss (who goes by Andrew and is now a Utah Highway Patrol Officer. Whatever.). I followed them in my 4-door, fully enclosed CAR all the way to The Great Salt Lake, and then to some canyon. For the record, the mama in this scenario was not in favor. Not that it mattered.



Most of our days were spent in rooms that looked like this:

The concert on the final day looked like this:
80+ harps on one stage. It was beautiful!

We took the southern route home from Salt Lake and stopped by a little crack in the ground


And then we were home. And then things began to unravel at an alarming pace. How kind of God to give me a week and a half of calm and beauty and rest and peace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

June, 2010

Last June's page on the calendar is pretty bare. We made up a couple of missed parenting classes for our foster care certification. I took Mom to her doctor appointments and the older girls' mother/daughter book clubs each met that month. The main even of June, 2010 happened on Sunday the 27th when we went to Dan's hometown to celebrate his grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary.

I am blessed to have married into a Christian family. I am grateful to Harold and Dorothy for the heritage of faith that my children enjoy. I know that they pray for each member of their (now quite large!) family by name every day. To my great shame, there are days that go by when I don't even pray for my own children by name. It is humbling to think of these two believers, now in their 90's, holding us up in daily prayer. Lord, may we walk worthy.

We don't see Dan's extended family much any more. I'm really glad we took to opportunity to be with them last June. It would have been even better if I'd taken even ONE stinkin' picture. Missed photo opportunities are the bane of my existence. That and people who say "nuke-yew-lur".

Looking back. Again.

May, 2010 was a busy month. Beginning with the last week of April, we had the Oklahoma Homeschool Conventions. Plural. As in, we did TWO of 'em. Dan and I serve on the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma Christian Home Educators' Consociation which has as its mission to equip and encourage current and potential home educating families in Oklahoma. Way back in the summer of '09 it sounded like a good idea to host a satellite convention in Tulsa during the week preceding our usual OKC event. By spring of '10 that idea was beginning to look a little overwhelming, but we did it. Set up in Tulsa on Monday, Convention in Tulsa on Tuesday and Wednesday, take down on Wednesday night to set up in OKC on Thursday and have Convention in OKC on Friday and Saturday, take down on Saturday and collapse into a heap by Sunday.

Guess what?

We're doing it again. This time the midweek event is in OKC (whoa, Nellie! the pushback we got for moving the OKC event!) and the weekend event is in Tulsa. We have just over a month until the conventions and the amount of administrative and logistic work that remains to be done is daunting to say the least. But, you know what? It will all come together. Or it won't. Either way, the sun will come out and the earth will turn. We will work and plan and fix and pray. We will plant and water and trust God for the increase. It won't be perfect, and people will complain to us about the most inane, unchangeable things, but we will enjoy each other and learn some stuff and resolve to make it all even better next year.

Lots of changes in the convention format this year, but my favorite one is that first-time adult attendees can come for free! If you live in Oklahoma and you've never attended an OCHEC homeschool convention, please come as our guest. Details are on the OCHEC website (link above and in the sidebar). Even if you're just curious about homeschooling, we hope you'll pay us a visit and give us a chance to answer your questions.

I'm particularly excited because I invited Mary from Owlhaven to speak to our attendees about all the stuff she's so good at and SHE ACCEPTED! She's doing two workshops at each Convention! I'm working on arrangements for a blog meetup or two just for folks who love Mary and love blogging and want an excuse to get together. So whether you're coming to the convention or not, if you're in Tulsa or OKC and would be interested in a meetup the last week of April, let me know.

In other year-old news, we began our preparations to be certified as foster parents last May. In October, I brought 8-day-old baby J home from the NICU. He's still with us and is a pure joy! His life is very complicated, but he hasn't the faintest notion. He just coos and squeals and grins his way through every day being the darling of the household. We wait and pray for God's provision of a forever family, grateful for the opportunity to love and nurture this delightful boy. He's a little under the weather these days, so this mama needs to get to bed in case the wee one needs attention in the night.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wonder if I should just wait another couple of weeks?

Hello. I'm Dana. This is my blog. I last updated it 50 weeks ago. Part of me thinks I should wait another two weeks to blow the dust of the old thing, but the other part of me is sitting in the comfy chair in the bedroom, feeling the effects of a looooong Sunday afternoon nap. So, fueled by the two Braum's ice cream sandwiches I had for supper (not with supper, FOR supper), I'm feeling chatty.

Now, while I guess I don't really need to account for the entire YEAR that has passed since I wrote last, I think I do want to do a little catch-up just to get some things down in writing. Let me see now...I last posted in April, 2010. A look at my calendar and photo folder for that month tells me that we were just living life...planning the homeschool convention, going to birthday parties, winding up our homeschool year...the usual.

The thing that sticks out from that month happened on April 24. I'll get to that in a minute.

If you go back a post or two here on the blog, you will read that Mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer last winter. While it made me very sad, I must say that I expected it. My mom began smoking at age 17 or so. When I was 18, Mom's dad died of emphysema. We literally watched him waste away and essentially drown. When Mom continued to smoke after Grandad died, I knew that something similar lay down the road for her, and that my future children (there would be three, all girls, with rhyming names) would likely someday watch their grandmother die a horrible death. Have I mentioned my adolescent proclivity for the morose?

Fast forward 25 years, and there we were. The day Mom called with the definite diagnosis, I clearly remember thinking, "Okay. It's happening." When we hung up, I prayed, "God, please let this be the thing that causes Mom to fully trust in Your saving power. I can live 40 years here without her much easier if I know she's eternally Yours."

Back in 2006, my stepdad died suddenly. Mom came home from work to find that he had passed away at some point in the afternoon. In the weeks that followed, we had some good talks. She told me that she regretted that she'd never been baptized and asked if a certain pastor friend of mine might talk to her about that sometime. I spoke with him and of course he agreed to meet with her any time. I gave her the number, but she never used it. She didn't bring the subject up again until after her diagnosis. This time, I made the call for her. As I spoke with our pastor friend, I gave him some of our family history and what I knew of my mom's spiritual history. He went to visit her and found no reason that she shouldn't be baptized. I so appreciated his faithfulness to the Lord and to his calling; I knew he wouldn't just go through some motions to make a sick lady feel better for a moment.

On April 24, 2010, surrounded by several believing members of our family (some who had come from out of state!), my sweet, sick mama was tenderly baptized by our dear family friend.

This is Mom in December, '09. She came with us to see Santa and help the kids pick out their annual Christmas ornaments.

And here she is just 4 months later, on the day of her baptism.
She died just four months after that, on August 8, 2010. I miss her every day. The rest of my days here will be a little lonesome, but that's alright. They are nothing more than a vapor; my real life, and my sweet Mama, are with Christ in Heaven. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.