Monday, April 30, 2012
2 of 8 and I headed to DFW this past weekend for a rite of passage...
Did you know that every time a homeschooler gets invited to prom, an angel gets its wings?
Or something like that...
2 of 8 was invited to Spring Formal by a great young man. We've known him since he was a pup.
It was fun to snap some pics and then start sending them out all through social media. We were texting and Facebooking photos across the internet realm before 2 of 8 and The Date even got to the prom venue downtown.
We've got four grandmas (and four grandpas) who are itching to see those pictures. And there is a wide variance in their social media access.
My mother-in-law, who will tell you she is tech-challenged, actually heads the pack with a Facebook account and a phone that she can receive texts and pictures on. Wow, MiMi C! You're a rockstar! She got to see a bunch of the pictures that night, due to her social media savy-ness. MiMi F is also pretty savy, sporting an iPhone and texting up a storm. We texted pictures to her as well. My mom is not so comfortable with the texting stuff~~but she reads my blog and keeps up with the daily news. So this will be her first peek at the prom pics. And hopefully we can get the other grandma, Grandmom B, online and let her see these grand kids all fussied up in their formal wear.
There was the Corsage Bestowing...
And the Boutonniere Pinning...
There was the Hair...
Lots of Hair...
And the Hugging of the Mamas...
2 of 8 made music paper flowers for The Date's boutonniere~~I thought it turned out tres cool (that's French for 'neato').
And she put a few on her clutch...
We'll have some more professional pics coming in over the next few days...but for now, here's a teaser. We call this 'Prom Wear Magazine Cover...'
Okay Grandmas, there you go for now. We'll get some more Spring Formal Photodocumentation soon.
Oh. Wait. There's one more really important pic. For which I will probably get pinched...
But I'm throwing this next one in there just because....I love a good creeper photo.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
It's been, what five or six days since I've mentioned anything related to dance? Is that a record, here in the middle of dance season?
Well, then, let me update.
Here's 2 of 8, featuring some of her original choreography, dancing with the amazing CM. CM is just twelve years old and is a crazy super star of dance.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there lived a family with a bunch of little kids. The mom spent a fair amount of time researching how to best run a big family. She made beautiful color-coded schedules and cooked meals for the month ahead of time. Things ran by the clock and routines were established. Daily life was somewhat predictable and all the charts and schedules and color-coded everything seemed successful.
More little kids were born. And there were a couple of crazy moves to new cities. And the mom started working more.
And those kids started growing and growing and having all kinds of things on their personal schedules.
The mom looked up one day. She smiled at the dim memory of those carefully drawn charts from earlier motherhood. Nay, she snickered. Guffawed.
And then grew somber.
'Cuz life in this present day house was multiple parts crazy.
I realize this is a subtle tale and all, but the mom in the story is me. And that household is mine.
Motherhood is a job that never changes and is always changing. I've been a mom a long time and facets of it always remain the same. I work at being available to my kids. I feel strong pressure to keep our home life operating as smoothly as possible. But it's always changing in that, as the kids grow, my 'control' over everyone's schedules becomes more faint. When the majority of the kids were little, there were definitely seasons that seemed overwhelming. But for the most part, we were basically all doing the same things at the same time each day.
I love my work. Love, love, love. Don't want to stop, don't plan on stopping. 1 of 8 is still camping out in our home but spends the bulk of her days at the campus and at work. Her schedule varies day to day; sometimes she comes home in the late afternoon to closet herself upstairs to study. Other days,she doesn't arrive home until well after midnight. 2 of 8 is about to graduate and is working, working, working at all things dance. Her days vary. The girls share one car between them and there is always a scramble to make sure everyone can get where they need to go. 3 and 4 of 8 are continuing their homeschooling and are very involved in volunteering at church and in babysitting across the neighborhood. 5 and 6 of 8 spend their days schooling and dancing.
And the twins spend a lot of time in the car, helping me shuttle their siblings all across town.
It's not the childhood their oldest siblings had.
Somehow, at the end of the week, it's all managed to work.
But I'm not sure there's a way to capture on a timeline or a spreadsheet how it happens. There's some invisible grace going on there.
And the thing is, there are not a lot of resources out there for equipping moms to run families of this size when everyone goes in all different directions. I suppose if we had insisted the kids all engage in the same activities and if we had made a smooth daily schedule the priority, the chaos that marks our weeks would not be the norm.
Right or wrong, we just don't parent like that. We want each of them to explore what they were individually created to do. And that doesn't always fall within a manageable group-think style.
We need to find some kind of happy medium. As I write, the house is beyond a wreck. Beyond. There are only a few apples and a couple bags of pasta left in the pantry. Clean laundry lays in mountainous piles across my bedroom floor, destined to be washed again if I can't figure out where the line of demarcation of clean vs. dirty is.
And there's an odd mommyhood battle for me. I am still beyond thrilled to be the mom to these kids. I love them filling our home. I love the conversation, the laughter, the times we work through issues and come out the other side more bonded.
But there's a fatigue that sets in when it comes to mothering little people for this long. Fatigue in having cleaned the same messes for twenty-two years. Fatigue that the Little Fisher Price people are still under the sofa cushions. Not a bad thing, just a little hard to get my motivation up. Because in my observation, Little Fisher Price people seem to always make their way back to the couch cushions.
So I'm just confessing, I suppose. I'm really thinking on this thing. How to mother a house, not filled with just little kids, but with adult children and teenagers, crazy schedules and multiple drivers sharing a smaller pool of vehicles. What are the things on our calendars that are most important? And what are things that we should let go?
And how do I lead by example in that, since I tend to want to do it all?
Maybe it's time to break out the planning sheets and color-coded tabs. And maybe not.
Maybe I should start with the laundry piles on the bedroom floor and then work my way up to a grand unified theory on large family management.
That seems appropriate.
Monday, April 23, 2012
(8 of 8 with his current romantic obsession, CM...)
1 of 8 was standing in the kitchen the other morning, chatting with her youngest brother.
8 of 8.
Our resident 'hilarious by accident' person. A ridiculously funny kid. Even when he's not trying.
1 of 8 prepared to take out her retainer before sipping her tea. 8 of 8 watched in wonder as she removed the clear guards from her mouth.
"What is that?" he asked.
"These are my retainers," she replied.
"What are they for?" he questioned, amazed that she was keeping such oral secrets.
"Well, after I had braces, I got these so my teeth will stay straight and I wear them at night while I sleep," she said.
"So you'll have a winning smile?"
Sunday, April 22, 2012
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
She's turned into a little girl, my 7 of 8. Her toddler years are completed and her preschool days are almost done. She is chatty, bright, loves a turn of phrase.
And always asks questions.
Always pondering. Always thinking.
She wanders into my office the other day as I am preparing notes for an upcoming teaching. She snuggles up close to me, surveying the wreck that is the surface of my desk, idly picking up a broken crayon, fingering a roll of tape, trying on my reading glasses.
"Mom," she says, trying to extend her left arm to reach a paper clip, "Mom, who gave me my stroke? Was it an evil god?"
She's almost five.
I'm not prepared to have such a deep theological discussion with an almost five year old.
My mind goes racing to different escape routes, quickly turning over and rejecting any number of platitudes and trite answers. Spot a quotable rock, turn it over. Move on.
"Well," I stammer, "I don't think it was an evil god. The only God I know is good and He loves you."
Her enormous green~gray eyes hold mine.
"So did God give me my stroke?"
I'm floundering again, scrambling for the softest bit of substance from which to craft a response. I want her to know that God is powerful. I want her to know that she is in His keeping and care. I want her to know that He has created her exactly as she is to be. I don't want her to think there is a vestige of evil bound up in the left side of her body, the side weakened and constricted by a stroke.
But she needs to know there is an enemy out there. One who seeks to snatch joy from us. And that somehow, the sovereignty of God and the twisted machinations of the accuser have long engaged in a disturbing dance of destiny and design, the borders of which still confound me. Does she need to know all that today? Is the interplay of good and evil, eternity and falleness, is it the right response to a child a few weeks shy of her fifth birthday? What does she need to hear me say?
"God loves me," she says, breaking my cacophonous thoughts. "He loves all of us!" She smiles at her insight and stretches her tight left arm again. She skips out to the kitchen, in search of her princess cup full of water.
And I stay at my desk. Conflicted. Singing my song of Why over this darling of a child. Thumbing through oft-rehearsed lyrics of What Does This Mean and Can't You Just Heal Her.
In the kitchen, she's humming. Today, knowing God loves her is enough.
Maybe it should be for me, too.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
~Very Important Dance Buddies~
~on the left, KZ, 2 of 8's fellow senior dancer and precious friend~
~on the right, CM, 6 of 8's dancing twin~
~because it's not just how you dance and when you dance and where you dance~
~it's who you dance with....~
~love you, sweet girls~
Friday, April 20, 2012
Running is my 'thing'. My escape. My way of keeping myself fit enough to chase around the people who populate my household.
And one of my brothers had this insight; it's one of the few things in my world that represents the opportunity for a 'closed loop' each day, a goal I can complete.
Wise, that brother of mine. And right. I didn't realize it until he said it, but life as the facilitator of this super -size family calls in large part for me to accept that there are so many things left undone at the end of the day. The laundry is never caught up, the kitchen is never closed. And I'm fine with that. Those are the sign posts of a full house.
But it is nice. To set my little training check list for running. And to click off those miles.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I can't, ironically, let running become a crutch, become a way of avoiding the stress and challenges and choices in a busy life. A way of coping with stress, sure. But not to literally and figuratively run from it.
I have a little hiccup in my personality. I'm super easy-going, for the most part. I can ignore a mess and deal with a bombed spelling test. I can improvise on the spot if needed. I believe in extravagant grace and believe in handing it out freely.
I'm pretty darn hard on myself. In several areas. And even in running. My running partner, JT, was one part appalled and two part giggles when she realized I would practically dash into traffic to avoid 'stopping' running until we had completed our mileage. She's watched me run through water stops, slopping myself with water as I go. She's been working on me, to my benefit. Take it easy. Enjoy the run. Walk through the water stops.
Stop running into traffic.
We ran a race this past Sunday, the inaugural event of the Austin 10/20. The race concept was fun and unique, a 10 mile run with bands located every 1/2 mile of the route, a concert in motion. There were thousands of fellow runners at the starting line, music blaring and spectator cameras clicking. JT and I had added another runner to our party and had been training as a trio for this race. We were laced up and ready, visors down.
But I was carrying a little something extra with me. A lower back injury that was fired up and murmuring, not giving way to the quieting effects of lots of Advil. I had signed up for this race. I had trained. And I was going to do it, back pain or no.
And off we went.
JT and I usually talk breathlessly through our training and our races. I actually keep a little mental list going of recent events and trivia bunny trails, all in reserve for race conversation. But not this race. I was quiet. Concentrating. Thankfully, our third running partner was up for keeping the chat going.
By mile 8, my ability to ignore my back was done. D-O-N-E. I waved JT and our other partner on, telling them to go, go, go. And I slowed myself to a hop-a-long jog crawl, churning internally, knowing my time would be shot, frustrated and scolding myself.
It went on for a while.
And then I started looking around. Surrounded by the slow pokes.
But what a group.
Determined. Not elite athletes, not lithe, not natural runners. Just a band of folks out to accomplish a hard goal. Knee braces. Sweat-slicked foreheads. Jogging a few paces and then dropping to a walk. Then jogging again.
And loving it.
I could see in this group that nobody was taking it for granted that we were now approaching the nine mile mark. For several of them, this was the furthest they'd ever gone. They were thankful the forecast thunderstorms had staved off. They were thankful for walking through every water stop. They weren't worried about their times. They cheered the bands, stopped to dance a few dance steps, hobbled and jog/walked to join the pack again.
They were finishing the race.
And they were having a good time.
I chatted with a few folks. I quieted the mental naggings in my head. I took in the scenery.
Finally, the finish line came in to view.
I kicked it in, searing back pain and all. I made up a few seconds, maybe. It wasn't pretty. It was an ugly run.
But JT and our other partner were there at the finish, waiting for me. I crossed, we grabbed hands. We accepted cold water bottles and received our medals.
It was an ugly run.
But a beautiful thing.
Because, at the end, I was proud of myself. Proud of the folks who I met in those last two tough miles.
Proud because we finished.
And sometimes simply finishing can be a beautiful end to an ugly race.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
My kids delight in telling people that they are 'hometeached'.
As if we haven't fielded enough questions through the years about our grand social experiment called homeschooling.
When we started schooling at home seventeen years ago when 1 of 8 was in kindergarten, homeschooling was not the known and discussed phenom that it is today. Back in 1 of 8's day, it was still an exotic and controversial sub-culture experience, a land of myth and urban legend, a place where everyone knew one odd, freakish homeschool family who secluded their children from the world and forced them to write in Latin and speak in Klingon.
That's not the case any more. Thankfully.
But back then, as much as I felt like homeschooling could 'work', I found myself defending and defining homeschooling, soothing the fears and questions and doubts of family and friends.
This past weekend, seventeen years later, I felt like I had 'proof' that it worked. 1 of 8 was awarded double honors for her work in her French and Neuro-Biology degrees. She is scheduled to graduate with both degrees in the next year and a half and will be pursuing a combined MD/PhD in neurology. Yes, we are very, very proud of her. Proud of her tenacity, proud of her drive.
But then I had to check myself again.
Because I was falling into that trap. Again. Of feeling like I had to 'prove' our homeschool decision. That academic success at a major university somehow validates the choices we made when she was little.
But you know what?
This past weekend wasn't a tribute to homeschooling. At all. It was an evidence of 1 of 8's character and heart, manifested in an academic program.
Maybe some of her siblings will follow her academic path. Maybe not. And if they don't, it won't invalidate our homeschool experience. 2 of 8 is planning to follow a very different path. She's running full-out into the arms of dance, preparing for final student recitals and then moving into the work of choreographer, director and performer. Her academic experience will be a blend of in-class and online. 3 of 8 is making noise about going into engineering...or film...or graphic design. And maybe transferring into our local public high school. And 4 of 8 wants to sing.
None of it 'proves' homeschooling works. And none of it disproves it. It simply makes evident what we prayed for and hoped for from the start, that we would create an environment in which our kids could dabble and explore and have time to play in a variety of areas to allow them to find their destiny. That could happen in public, private or homeschool. In our case, it was at home. And it has so much more to do with what opportunities the kids have been willing to grab on to than in our academic vision.
I suppose that's my message here. Whatever scholastic decisions you've made for your kids, bless you. May your children embrace what resources you have extended to them. May they dream big dreams and may they learn to work hard. And may we all remember that success in life is far more than grades and accolades. It's heart and character, tenacity and humility. Because that is where true honor resides.
And 1 of 8? With your double orange tassels?
I am so proud of you, of your GPA, of your accomplishments. Because they are a little taste of all you are, drive and heart, joy in discovery, delight in research which is simply the tangible expression of the fascination you bear for the ingenious creation we call this world and our human forms. I love you.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
This is the next to last day countdown to the demise of Picnik, the online photo editing system I've been using for years. I whined about its closure a few weeks ago.
But yesterday....oh, yesterday. There came a shining light in my photo editing darkness.
I know it seem a little sudden and capricious. But I am in love again.
Yes. So soon.
And all this editing goodness is still free, for the moment. Please. Go to there. Try. Edit. Play.
You will thank me. You will.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
There it is.
The final flight of the Shuttle program.
My childhood was spent following the people and technology that were responsible for this era of space flight. My dad is a literal rocket engineer and we always had the tail of the Shuttle in our sights as we moved from Marshall Space Center in Hunstville, Alabama, to the dry lake beds of Edwards Air Force Base in California, with stops in between across the country. (link to image source)
All in pursuit of manned space flight in rockets designed to look like planes.
It was the Shuttle that took my family, with its deep southern roots, to the East Coast and then to the West. It was the Shuttle that gave me a childhood soaked in Southern California sunshine. It was the Shuttle that necessitated my attending three different high schools scattered across the country as we moved from place to place. It was the Shuttle that defined much of our family life and lore.
It was the apex of my dad's career in engineering. It was the dominating image of the years I lived in my parents' home.
Bittersweet to see it end. Blended with a lot of pride.
Pride that my dad left the red dirt farm of Mississippi to pursue his education that led him to the heights of rocketry. Pride that my mom was willing to leave the South and follow my dad in his formula~mathematics~physics soaked dreams of travel to the stars. Pride in the incredible men and women we met along the way, those who designed the Shuttle, those who built the Shuttle, those who flew the Shuttle.
And, yes, those who died aboard the ill-fated Shuttles of Challenger and Columbia.
I stand awed that the men and women who pepper the flavor of my childhood memories are those who could stand in a field on a starry night and not just wonder at the heavens, but could think of ways to navigate them.
So to the Shuttle program...
And to my mom and dad who chased it...
Thank you for giving me a childhood sprinkled in stardust and frosted with visions of flight. For a childhood spent stomping across dry lake beds to watch such a wonder descend from the skies. For a childhood with soccer coaches and neighbors and friends who flew and designed and talked and debated and dreamed.
Your legacy has given me a heritage of sailing the cosmos, a priceless thing to ponder in my heart.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
So if you're my friend on Facebook you've already seen these. But I'm posting them here on my blog. 'Cuz I can hang whatever I want on the walls here.
Did I ever tell you I had a photography business years ago? I did. And I loved it. And I did my fair share of photo shoots at preschools with hordes of toddlers and copious shoots with babies and young families. It was great.
But my favorite was doing senior portraits.
The high school seniors knew what they wanted. And they knew how to stand still and not fidget and not pick their noses, unlike many of my preschool clients. And it always seemed such an honor to photographically capture such an important season in a young person's life.
I closed my photography business a few years ago as our family was growing and our moves for Mike's work made things more complicated.
But I found myself doing senior portraits this year.
Of 2 of 8.
She turns 18 in a few days. And it's not like I haven't been in this territory before as a parent. 1 of 8 turns 22 this year. Which is weird. Since I still think of myself as being 28.
So 2 of 8 turning 18 should be familiar, right? But it's not. It's a delight and a mystery all over again to see yet another one of my little babies become an adult.
We headed out to one of my favorite places on earth yesterday, the ranch of some precious friends, an incredible piece of Texas Hill Country, bordered by bluebonnets and a fresh water spring. It is so quiet and peaceful there. We had the other kids stay at home and I took 2 of 8 and one of her best buddies, KZ, out to make some pictures. The temperature was mild, the sky was blue and it was so, so quiet at the ranch. Just me and my baby and KZ.
2 of 8 danced on water there. Quenched her dancer toes in the jade green water. And looked for all the world like a ballerina in a tutu absolutely belonged in the wild green backdrop of a piece of Texas paradise.
Monday, April 9, 2012
When I started having kids, I had some goals.
Usually of the spiritual, academic and well-mannered kind.
But there has been something that has become increasingly important to me over the years.
And that is the development of friendships among my children.
My two brothers and I are dear friends. Love them dearly, in contact with them often, count them among my dearest friends.
I want that for my kids, for their relationships with each other.
And I haven't a clue as to how it developed with my brothers and me. I just always remember them being, yes, my bratty little brothers, but also my friends.
So I think about it a lot. The relationships between my kids. I want it to be more than just tolerating each other or not pestering each other~~though, those have been lofty goals at times and in certain seasons.
Nothing warms my mama heart like that photo above, taken yesterday during Easter. To see my four oldest kids, laughing, teasing, playing, enjoying each other. As friends.
I wish I had some recipe to share, some powerful wisdom. I don't. But I do have some observations about sibling friendships, some ideas that I do think have helped foster friendships amongst the people who live in this house.
1. Talk about friendship as the ultimate goal.
I often talk with my kids about the joy of having your siblings also be your dear friends. You're going to be spending a lot of time with these people, a lot of holidays. You might as well enjoy them. To that end, what occurs while they live in my home will go a long way toward adult friendships or frenemies. The seeds they sow into these relationships now will yield a harvest of connection or a failed crop of unresolved animosity. Friendship. It's a goal.
2. Remind them that the tools they use in their outside-of-family-friendships are effective within the family as well.
If you don't find it profitable to yell at your school friends, it's not going to work with your siblings either. If you don't like being bullied, neither will your siblings. And if you expect your friends to be loyal and loving, then you will need to be as well if you want to have your siblings as friends.
3. Coach. And coach. And coach.
We seem to have some notion that family friendships just kinda sorta happen. That somehow you're just born knowing how to be siblings. But I don't think so. I think it has to be deliberate. And so I coach my kids. And remind them of friendship protocols.
4. Laugh. Have fun.
We don't keep our home super duper clean. I'm pretty hopeless at keeping the kids on a good chore schedule. The laundry is not caught up and the interior of our van is nasty. But we as a family laugh. Oh, do we laugh. We have fun. And I'm convinced it's the bonding glue of our friendships with one another. We truly, truly enjoy one another. It's more important to me that we laugh every day than if we get all the floors clean. As you would see, were you to come hang out at our house. The bathrooms would disgust you, the laughs would make you giggle.
5. Know when to get out of the way.
Ultimately, my kids have to decide if relationships with their siblings are important to them. I can't make them like each other and I can't make them have relationships. And I tell them that. I tell them that it is ultimately their decision if they want relationship with their brothers and sisters. While they live in our home, they will be kind, they will be polite, they will be supportive. And then, it's up to them. If I'm the only one trying, that's not indicative of a true friendship among them. I can't be the nexus of their connection. They have to ultimately form those bonds outside of me.
6. By example.
My kids see my brothers and I laugh until we cry, call each other all the time, text, talk, chat and laugh some more. We make an effort to see each other, even though we are scattered across the country. They see our friendship in action. And if you find yourself in a situation where relationships with your adult siblings are fractured, let your kids know that it would mean so much to count your siblings as friends.
7. The only child.
My mom is an only child. But she does have a sibling, of sorts. Her cousin is like a sister to her, the devoted niece to my grandmother and my mom's childhood confidant and friend. If you are an only child or you are raising an only child, choose yourself some family. Love and nurture those relationships. And teach your child to do the same. I didn't have a sister by birth. But I am blessed, blessed, blessed to have those women in my life, women who have been with me through thick and thin who are not just friends, but are my sisters.
8. Pray. A lot.
We pray for our kids' outside friendships, for their schooling, for their future mates, for their destinies. But what of their relationships with each other? Do we pray that those relationships will last long beyond the time they are tucked in at night under our roofs? They are only in our keeping and care such a short while and then we launch them, hearts in our throats, into a wide world. Their future relationships with each other are worth some prayer. I want it to live beyond this season in our home.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Spring has sprung around here, which means it's time for the second annual neighborhood charity carnival!
Three families on our street hosted the carnival this year, raising money for the homeless. Hot dogs, chips, face painting, a bean bag toss and all manner of games were available, all for a small admittance cost.
8 of 8 really surprised me. He was waayyyyy into the face painting booth....and he sat so, so still while he had both cheeks adorned. I need to remember to offer him some face painting when he needs to wind down...
Be sure and look for his whopper of a shiner...his brother opened a door into 8 of 8's face. Yea. Ouch.
Not to be outdone, 7 of 8 wanted her face painted up as well...
and the finished product...
It was amazing how many folks showed up for the event. The organizers were able to raise double of their original goal! And it's such a beautiful thing to see kids working hard to help the community, to make a difference. Congratulations to them!