Monday, August 28, 2017

Here we go

It is all of those cliches. Summer flew by. The kids are growing so fast. I want to stop time. I want to give them wings to fly, but I also want to clip those wings so they'll stay little forever.


As always, regardless of my feet dragging, time keeps marching forward, and I somehow and amazingly find myself with two middle schoolers, an elementary aged child, and a preschooler. Last night we got out the markers and crayons and filled out our yearly first day of school questionnaire and made the first day of school signs for the kids to hold. My heart was so proud and so busted up about these delightful, bright, silly kids.

Isaac starts Challenge B today, aka 8th grade for the non-Classical Conversations readers, and my brain is playing screeching noises as I try to stop this train. At dinner we went around the table and each said what gifts, talents, and attributes he possesses that will serve him well in Challenge B. We talked about his dedication, tenacity, smarts, work ethic, curiosity, and the fact that he's fun to play ball with. (Any guesses on which one Asher added to the conversation.) All of those things are true. He is so ready. He has grown so much this summer, in looks and maturity. He's still a tall and very lean fellow, but his face has the look of a young man and his demeanor is more grown up as well. There's just something in the way he carries himself. It is remarkable to be up close and personal to this type of transformation in my first baby, who I still sometimes think of as my itty bitty bugga boo.


It's the blink of an eye. It defies everything we know about 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. I know all of those facts to be true, yet it feels just as true that I was sitting in a rocking chair in a tiny little bedroom in a teeny apartment building singing lullabies to a little tiny first born boy named Isaac who busted my mama heart right open about 2 years ago. Nope. That little tiny first born boy is now 13 1/2 and about 1 inch shorter than I am, at least as of last night. It's highly possible that he grew enough overnight to overtake me in the height department.

Last night he was cleaning up from an afternoon of front yard baseball. I wiped my hands, wet from chopping veggies, and stepped onto the porch to ask him if he needed any help. As I spotted him, I stopped in my tracks to watch him. He was sauntering across the yard, a new swagger in his step, the look of a young man on his face. I could not quite bring myself to talk as the changes of the summer and of his lifetime smacked me over my head as I stared at this man-child of mine. I've known him his whole life. I heard his heartbeat for the first time in a little brick office building in Oklahoma while Jim was in Minnesota and I cried and cried and said, "If I didn't already believe in God, hearing this would bring me to Jesus." But this boy who I've known for the length of his days has a whole life ahead of him that won't include me in all of the ways that I'm used to.

I mean, really, mamas, are we okay with this?

And the truth is, we absolutely are. It hurts and it stings and we can't wrap our brains around it and it feels utterly unfair to love someone this much as we lovingly and proudly raise them to leave us. But there is nothing quite like looking a young man in the face after he's made a difficult and compassionate decision. There is nothing quite like seeing that future unfold in big and little ways as they take their first steps away from the safety of our home and out into the big world. There is nothing quite like trusting a God who loves my kid even more than I do to guide him through life's devastating challenges and unfathomable joys.





Today I'm at home schooling my youngest three kiddos while my biggest boy is at CC. 8th, 6th, 4th, and preschool started. Ready or not, here we go. 

math, cutting, then collage time, and piano
If you have kids, have your kids started school again? What grades? Let's do this, mamas!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cuatro es cuatro

When Asher was a wee little nugget residing under my heart and atop my bladder, he quickly earned the in utero nickname of cuatro. We never find out the gender of our babies, and he's our fourth kid, so cuatro it was. Then cuatro was born and became Asher, with the most perfect meaning of happy, joyful, blessed, but one of his many nicknames remains cuatro. And today, somehow, impossibly, cuatro turned cuatro. I can't even talk about all of the life transitions we've endured and rejoiced about since this fellow turned our world upside down four years ago. Like the old cliche goes, I have no idea how we got here so quickly, but I also can't recall a time when my he wasn't my son, my heart, my love.


You want to talk sass? Personality? Joy? It's this guy. He's the silliest in a very silly bunch of bananas, the most likely to smack a sibling when he gets mad (read, the only one to do that. none of our others were hitters. seriously, kid!), an absolute animal lover, and the very sweetest when someone gets hurt or seems worried. At that point, the worried or hurt person has an Asher in his or her lap for sweet murmurs and arm rubs. His smile is so ridiculously cute that he can sweet talk almost anyone into almost anything. Please, son, use your powers for good.
Asher helped make his birthday cake, including licking the spatula
He says things like, "Dada, get ready quick as a pickle!" and, "First of all, I could reach the horn, and second of all, I didn't want to honk it." He's about as grown as you would expect the youngest sibling by 9, 7, and 5 years to be. He's got a lot of older siblings to keep up with, and that is his life's mission.

I look at this boy that I could never in a million years have dreamed would be my son, and I marvel at the genius of God's plan in our lives. He is my big emotions, his dad's amazing brown eyes, his biggest brother's love of learning, his sister's compassion, and  his big brother's looks, love of animals, and silliness. Then there are all the parts that are just Asher, just absolutely perfectly Asher. The grand storytelling, the adventurous streak, and the twinkle he gets in his eyes when he wants to make us laugh. Dang, I love this kid. Everyone loves this kid.
a beautiful sunrise to start the birthday fun
So, today we celebrated. Well, first, Asher woke up way too early, so he snuggled with me while I unsuccessfully tried to get him to be quiet until I finally brought him downstairs for books on the couch and doggie cuddles. Once the rest of the house woke, it was time for present opening before the chosen birthday breakfast of monkey bread and smoothie. After everyone got dressed and brushed teeth, although, upon further inspection, it appears that one non-birthday kid was so excited about the day's events that teeth brushing was forgotten, we surprised Asher with a trip to the Children's Museum. What a fun spot to celebrate as a family. We got the membership because it's worth it for a family of 6, so we look forward to going back soon to explore the places we didn't get to today. All the kids loved it.
book, mama, and puppy equal happy boy

good morning birthday hug from big bro bro

hugs from the other bro bro

hugs for audrey after she gave him the t-shirt she bought for him with her own money

monkey bread and smoothie breakfast. . . mmmmm
They explored the testing kitchen, vet clinic, ball room, energy room, bubbles, water areas, fire station, art station, climbing contraption, and so much more, but there's still more to explore next time.

firefighters

they were all intrigued by the balls

we made gazpacho in the teaching kitchen

wahooooo. riding the zipline!

we all climbed altitude, the climbing structure
We came home before rush hour for delicious cake and ice cream plus off-key singing followed by candle blowing, then Elliot and I drove to his first day of theater rehearsals for his next show, Lion King Kids. Then it was home for birthday dinner of french toast and egg bake. . . did I mention this kid likes bread? The kids played a few rounds of the new birthday game, Hungry Hungry Hippos, we cleaned up from dinner, and it was bedtime. Lights out on our first day with our new four-year-old.

When Asher was a baby, Elliot matter-of-factly reported, "The first question I'm going to ask Asher when he can talk is, 'why do your cheeks eat your eyeballs when you smile?'" I'm happy to report that four years in, his cheeks still eat his eyeballs when he smiles, and there was plenty of opportunity for him to smile on his special birthday.
Happy birthday, cuatro!

Cuatro es cuatro. Wow.
He's four!!!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Space for silence and humans and whatever else comes my way

I just finished a book, and I almost loved it. Have you ever had one of those moments where a book finds you at just the right time, and, even while you're loving it, you realize you might not love it if the timing were different? (If you know what I mean, you're probably as geeky about words as I am.) Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger always comes to mind when I think about the perfect timing of a book meeting a human. I loved that book so much when I read it, but I think the timing was everything, so I'm almost afraid to read it again. P.S. Someday I'll bite the literary bullet and read it again, but you should just read it now. Then tell me what you think, because sharing book recommendations is one of my favorite things to do, but then I live in fear that someone won't like a book I loved and then how the heck do we move past that?

Moving on, I just finished a book, and, like I said, I almost loved it. I never listen to podcasts. I mean that in the literal sense that I have never listened to a podcast. I'm going to come out of the closet and shamefully admit that I don't even know how one listens to podcasts. How embarrassing is that? I really, truly am an 86-year-old woman trapped in a 40-year-old body. So, I never listen to podcasts, but I saw a blurb about a podcast about a book, and I thought it sounded interesting so I put the book on hold at the library like all of the other 86-year-olds who like to turn physical paper pages of a book when they're reading.

It came at the perfect time. I had recently broken up with Twitter, and it was totally me, not it. I would read, then get angry, then click on more things to feed the fire, then get horribly sad, then craft vitriolic responses that I could never fit into 140 characters, then close the computer in a huff and a mood, all because of stupid pixels on a stupid phone or computer screen. Well, it's not really that simple, since the things that the pixels said were really happening or really typed or said by people, but it was an utterly futile relationship with no chance for change or growth on anyone's side. Therefore, I logged off, and that was that.

I didn't take the Twitter break up too hard. Twitter's not my thing, what with the confining 140 characters and so many strangers just hopping on to follow a person whenever your name crossed their weird internet rabbit hole path. Nope. Facebook is my social media of choice. Pictures and as many words as I want and the ability to keep up with family and friends from all over the country. Yes, thank you. It should be noted that I've never tried snapchat or instagram or that musical.ly thing that confounds my brain or any other cool and hip social media thing due to the fact that I'm simple and lazy. Also 86.

So, with Twitter gone, and yours truly wasting far too much time clicking on random stuff on my phone, I took Facebook off of my phone. You guys, I'm embarrassed by how much time I saved in a day without a minute here and five minutes there liking and posting and commenting and clicking. I had so much time on my hands that I started making all of our bread from scratch. I'm not even kidding you. Obviously, it was also about prioritizing my time differently, but without the temptation to turn the phone on when I had a spare minute, the prioritizing was simple.

That's where I was when I saw the blurb about the podcast about the book. It's a memoir called What Falls from the Sky by Esther Emery. It's stunningly and simply written, slightly self-deprecating, not over the top, not preachy, and very approachably lovely. (The ending left me a little deflated, which is why I almost loved it.) In it, Emery, an up and coming theater director in California, tells of her decision to spend an entire year without the internet. She used PAPER MAPS, not Google maps, for Pete's sake! No TV, no debit or credit cards, no googling the average length of an eel, no emailing her friends who lived across the country from her, no checking the church's website to see what time the bell choir is meeting on Wednesday. NO INTERNET!

The joke is that we love the internet until it doesn't work, and then our utter ineptitude at all things related to 21st century life becomes glaringly apparent. We don't know how to get to a movie theater or what time a movie starts or if we even want to see a movie because we haven't read the reviews from our favorite entertainment blogger. If we can't get online, how do we bank or communicate with friends or do anything at all work related? We're pretty pathetic creatures without the internet.

Emery signed off of all devices, cancelled cable and wifi, and lived for a year with her husband and two young kids. She read books, went camping, started cooking, focused on her marriage, noticed the stunning beauty of holding her baby, met some neighbors, wrote notes to her penpals, watched trees bloom in spring, baked bread, traveled to Nicaragua, grieved deaths, and went to church. As I like to say, nothing special happened, but everything happened. Her story is so real and hard, and I was about 2 pages from really and absolutely loving it.

I'm not ready to give up the internet, which should be obvious since I'm typing a blog post. I'm considering what her decision looks like in my life, and it's bringing up some interesting discussions that rattle around in my brain like dice on a plastic yahtzee tray. It's loud and clunky in there and mostly chaotic, but my brain is doing the difficult work of melding new ideas with old ideas into workable ideas.

On Wednesday, I woke up and signed off of facebook. I don't know my password since I had Jim change it a while ago, so no cheating once the kids go to bed. I texted my mom and a few friends about it so they would know to call, text, or email me if they needed to get a hold of me, but other than that, I just clicked log off. My mom texted back asking why. Here's my answer: "It's making me hate people. It puts the worst of the world in one easy to click spot that I get sucked into and hate humans. My time needs to be spent with real life people."

It is worth noting that this happened right after the horrendous, racist, grotesque, and despicable events in Charlottesville, VA and during a week when Donald Trump pissed me off even more than usual, which is saying something. I would read an article, get Furious with a capital F, click on another article, read something poetic and dramatic from someone talking about how we can change and what we must do in the face of this hatred and anger, repost, repost, get mad about another article, etc., etc., etc. It sucked me right in with the force of an industrial strength vacuum. And to what end? My mind won't be changed by an article on Facebook. That just doesn't happen. Change happens within the context of face to face, human contact between two people who care enough about each other to listen. Not hear sound coming from a mouth in order to react, but really listen, pause, think, discuss.

Does this matter to anyone but me? Doubtful. But it does matters to me. I am committing more of my time and energy to people and efforts that bring fruit to my life and hopefully to the lives of those around me. Tonight instead of popping online to check something after dinner, the two boys and I cleared off the table, played a game of Memory, read some books, got the little fellow to bed, and watched Karate Kid with my teenager. (Classic movie and as good as I remember!) I was not distracted. In Emery's book, someone called her and told her that they knew the internet was becoming an issue when they logged on without a reason, but instead being online was the destination. In other words, we aren't popping online to pre-purchase movie tickets or to look at the map of the Louvre for an upcoming vacation, but are just going on to pass the time. I do that far too often. One click leads to another click leads to a really good song on youtube leads to three hours gone in a flash with nothing to show for it.

To be clear, I'm a homeschooler who doesn't care how you educate your kids so long as you do it well because we need some bright, articulate humans to come of age and lead our country right about now, a vegetarian who doesn't care if you eat meat, and, currently, a social media drop out who doesn't care how much time you spend online watching cat videos or posting on Facebook. You do what you need to do and I'll do what I need to do. Right now, I need to spend time with real humans doing real things without wondering if the picture I post will be commented on or liked or why my friend did that cool thing with her other friend, but never reaches out to me.

The internet isn't going to be my destination anymore. I'm going to traverse more stable grounds here on the actual earth. For how long? I'm not sure yet. But I'm excited to see what comes my way.

Peace for the journey, friends.

P.S. You know the saying, if a tree falls in the forest and noone is there, does it still make a sound? Well, if a blogger writes a blog post but can't advertise on social media, does anyone read it? Apparently not, since yesterday's post has a whopping 8 readers so far. But, I've decided to be here on the blog more often to chronicle the big, little days of my life with my family and in our community. For me. For writing. For memories.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer's Last Hurrah

Summer ends early in Colorado, with the buses roaring past our house bright and early starting on August 17. In Minnesota, public school starts after Labor Day and that is the end of that. We're still doing cheesy 80's movie marathons, slow and extended wake-ups, and long pancake breakfasts with flour everywhere. In fact, we still have two kids away at summer camp for the week, so it's safe to say that our brains are not yet in full-time school mode.
So far Isaac and I have watched Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, and Karate Kid

With that said, we're easing in with more math lessons, Latin flashcards, cursive and typing practice, and the mama reading up on Algebra, Logic, and Latin. We'll be ready when Isaac's Challenge class starts on the 28th of August. . . we're just not quite there yet.

I can't exactly say where our summer went, but I can say it was a good one. We took no trips, had no big plans, and didn't sign the kids up for any sports camps. Each of the big kids did a week at church camp, but, other than that, we were around. We read books, went to an amusement park, planted our first CO garden, swam with cousins, hiked a bit, camped, played baseball in the front yard, took care of dogs, cats, and even a pig for Audrey and Elliot's job as petsitters, brought Isaac and his weed whip and lawnmower around town for his job doing yard work, tried our hand at trail horseback riding, popped popcorn for movie night, ate popsicles on the deck, and hung out.
hiking fun

happy gardener

swimming with cousins

cat sitting

camping

amusement park fun

fun with nana at the amusement park

trail riding near Estes Park

Church camp

Isaac had a lock in at church in May and part of the ice breaker was going around and saying where you were going for the summer. I was there because, although I am a few decades from middle school, I am part of the Middle School ministries at our church, so I get to hang out with our middle and high school students periodically. I cringed because I knew Isaac wouldn't have much to say on the topic and I worried that he'd feel left out or weird or any other less than adjective.

Kids were going to Greece and China and on a week-long backpacking trip, Florida and Ecuador and Turkey. Isaac was going to a week at church camp. Hmmmm. . . one of these things is not like the other one.

We stayed put and nothing happened and everything happened and the kids argued and I lost my temper and we laughed ourselves silly and made wonderful memories from our tiny, little corner of the universe. Isaac never mentioned that we didn't go on a grand adventure or big trip. Today, the two kids who aren't away at camp and I celebrated the waning moments of summer fun with a "not back to school" beach day. We invited a few friends who homeschool or whose child didn't have to be to school today to join us, and enjoyed the empty beach and playground. The kids played themselves ragged and the moms chatted and relaxed, and it was a great, unassuming end to a great, unassuming summer.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Love and goodbyes

She knows all of the lyrics to recent rap and R&B music.

Her house is all brand new and angles and contemporary and red and white and gray.

Her dogs get groomed far more often than I do and at a much higher cost, too.

I mean, she doesn't like t-shirts, for Pete's sake.

Who is this woman?

She's my mom, and today is a big day in our little world. Somehow, in spite of all those differences, this woman birthed and raised me!

When we moved to Colorado, we came because we loved the state and, despite it looking like absolute nonsense on paper and confusing most people who saw us as so settled and involved in our community in Minnesota, it just felt right in our guts. Now, despite loads of difficulties and setbacks, it is our home. A delightful perk of CO life is that my mom lived one hour away from us. I haven't lived in the same state as my mom since I was 19 years old. She has always been very involved in our lives and extremely supportive of our family, but it's always been from a distance of many states away. When we moved here, that involvement, support, and love took the form of monthly sleepovers for one kid at a time to grow their relationship, periodic family dinners, birthday celebrations, and most holidays spent together. It has been an absolute gift.


Today that changes as my mom and stepdad begin a new adventure in California. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the move is not on their own timeline, but is brought about by medical reasons. Thankfully, it is nothing life threatening, but it is serious enough that a move is necessary.

To say we are sad is an understatement. It is this big pile of big emotions as we realize how dang fortunate we are to have so much loving family in our lives. As we realize how fortunate we are to have had the opportunity to live near them for almost three years. As we realize how fortunate we are to love and be loved so well. We really do know how fortunate we are.

But we want more. Because we are so terribly sad to say goodbye to the intimacy and time that only proximity allows. The love won't end, won't even fade, but everything else will change. A one hour drive turns into a 15 hour drive. Twice monthly visits become three or four times a year. I am a greedy human, aren't I?

I have truly cherished this time living near my mom, in spite of arguments and misunderstandings that are bound to come with two people who love each other, have intense similarities, extreme differences, and a deep need to communicate with all of the words as often as possible.

The bottom line is that I know I can be an adult and parent and live a beautiful life without living near my mom. I just really don't want to.

But I will. Obviously. The kids and I will cry some more, wipe our tears, and look forward to seeing nana and babu at Thanksgiving. We are so thrilled that my mom will feel so much better physically. We know they will make their new house into an amazing home and will fill it with friends and parties, contemporary design and rap music, but no t-shirts. We'll make sure we bring plenty when we visit.

What a day. Here's to new adventures.


Love you, mom.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Transitions

I like to think that I am pretty good at rolling with the punches. I used to be much more of a control freak, but one of the benefits of four kids is that I either had to chill out or go absolutely nuts. Most of the time, I choose chill out. That's not to say that I don't lose my cool or have moments where I want things to go a certain way at a certain time, but, for the most part, I temper my expectations, roll with it, and move forward feeling content and happy.

That's most of the time. Unfortunately, there are other times when I am hit with a tsunami of transitions, and I want to curl up into a ball with a loaf of bread and some brownies and ignore the world. I'm happy to report that I'm not there yet, but I wouldn't fault myself if I were.

On June 26, my third born turned 9. What a stupendous day of celebrating an adorably handsome, bright, kind, baseball loving, Harry Potter obsessed, animal whisperer, mostly introverted, fiercely loyal boy. Gosh, I love him, and watching him grow is and will always be a highlight of my life. Plus, so stinking cute.




On June 26, Jim started a new/old job at his new/old company. He started a new job last fall because his travel schedule was absolutely out of control, and it wasn't working for any of us. The new job promised less travel and a more reliable schedule. Some of that turned out to be true, but he was still traveling quite a bit, often with just a day's notice, and was not being compensated for it. Without going into all of the details, that job didn't work out and Jim started looking for a new position when he was offered a job with his old company. It was a very difficult decision and, with a solid level of trepidation, Jim accepted the job. We know it will involve travel, but that's pretty much par for the course in this field. How much travel? We have no idea.


On June 26, my mom and stepdad accepted an offer on their house that is an hour away from our family in order to move out of state. I haven't lived in the same state as my mom since I was 18 years old. When we moved to Colorado we moved because we loved the state, while acknowledging that being close to her was the most amazing bonus ever. It has proven to be as lovely as imagined. Actually, even better than imagined. She and my stepdad are incredible grandparents and amazingly supportive of our family. We still argue at times because it's what happens when you're so alike in the ways you're alike and so different in the ways that you're different, but, good grief, we love each other and we'll miss them like crazy. They are really sad to go, but it is the right decision for them.



 It's safe to say that June 26 and the days that followed were a doozies around here, with lots of emotions and tears and uncertainty.

Guess what else happened on the 26th? This is so cool! I was lamenting life in the dramatic way I am known to do. What can I say? I feel big. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. At any rate, we were meeting some friends at the park and after playing for a while they handed me an envelope of cash to use for whatever we need for foster care. (Now I just realized that I haven't even mentioned foster care on the blog, but this story only makes sense if I mention it, so I'll have to fill in the blanks at a later date. For the story's sake, we're trying to get licensed for foster care and have taken all of the classes and gone through all of the interviews, so we're in the wait stage. Did I mention we're in a stage of transition?) At any rate, they handed me a card full of encouragement and cash to support our family. Then I got home and another friend had mailed us a gift card to Target to use for whatever we need to support our hopefully expanding in the not from my belly way family. On a day that I was so down about so much that was, and remains, out of my control, the people around me lifted me up and encouraged me. The timing was perfect.

I'm not going to say God doesn't give us more than we can handle. Quite frankly, I think that's a load of bull. But. . . and this is a big But. . . God provides our daily bread. God provides people in our paths to lighten our load just when we think the burden is ours and ours alone. God provides. And as we step out in transitions and newness, these reminders came at just the right time.

Now it's August, and I've been sitting on this post since late June waiting to see how things will shake out. We still don't know. But I still know that God provides.