Actually, more like a day in review. But what a day. Amazing day. That felt like a week.
Does that count?
This past Saturday was 2 of 8's final dance recital as a student. We've been with this particular dance school for 5 years and 2 of 8 has danced for 16. When I think back through all the instructors and intensives and private lessons, I'm so overwhelmed by the people who have sown into 2 of 8's life and have coaxed her gift into bloom.
I had a speaking engagement that morning (Hi San Marcos Gals!!!! A big kiss and hug from me! Hi Tabitha!!!) which was a fantastic time. Then I booked it back to my city to get to the two shows for recital and then we headed over for a Post-Recital Shindig we threw for 2 of 8 and her best dance buddy and fellow senior, KZ. It was a night of fun and tears and a beautiful marker to show transition into the next seasons of 2 of 8 and KZ's lives and futures.
Did I mention there were lots of tears?
My intense level of organization and drive culminated in one blaze of Post Recital Party Glory~~and now I've been trying to dig out my house and schedule and floors and laundry for the last four days.
Even my amazing running partner/sister neighbor JT, who has seen my house in all kind of manner of hot mess, was particularly impressed with how fast the OctaHouse went from immaculate for the in-laws coming into a technicolor disaster of costumes and left over bags of chips and party table cloths and table center pieces piled just inside my front door.
So with all that craziness going on, I did the only logical thing...
On Monday, I decided to switch three of the kids' rooms. And then I decided to paint.
That's what you would do, right?
While the costumes and left over chips and table cloths laid quietly in the entry, I successfully ignored my blog, my laundry and my kitchen and tore apart another 30% of the house.
That's how I roll.
So I kind of feel like I've been reliving all of Saturday's events just by walking in my front door. 'Cuz all that party stuff is sitting there to greet me as I come in the house with more buckets of paint.
I could probably have my own HGTV show on of these days...'Decorating the in Midst of a Hot Mess'.
I've just now started on the Post-Party Put Away. And I'm going through my pictures. And realizing how many shots I didn't get of things I wanted to. But for now, I'll just get these up on ye ol' blog and reflect on my photographic failures another day.
Because the thing is, it was a sweet, tearful, wonderful day.
And I still need to finish up some painting.....
...and clean up some costumes and table cloths....
And the first stop on Train Patience was trying to get a couple of cute pics of the twins before we went to dress rehearsal last night...
7 of 8 was just not feeling it yesterday...
But 8 of 8 was in his photographic glory.
How is it, that even at the age of five, he can inherently understand that the tux can make the man?
We've been going through old pictures over the last few days as we get ready for 2 of 8's post-recital graduation gala. Reams of pictures of the older kids decked in dance regalia. And I'm so, so, so glad for those cheesy 8x10s that document the years.
And I'm glad for these cheesy current pictures too.
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
The formative period for building character for eternity is in the nursery. The mother is queen of that realm and sways a scepter more potent than that of kings or priests. ~Author Unknown
I've spent over five years being pregnant. I've nursed babies off and on for over eighteen. I have no formula for determining the number of diapers, baths, diaper rashes, skinned knees and bruised feelings I have aided in my mothering career. There is no math to mother love.
I've learned how much hearing aids, pointe shoes, shin guards and casts cost. I've learned how to make two pounds of ground beef go for three meals. I've learned boxes are more fun than the toys which were packaged in them. I've learned that spotless floors and matched sets of dishes just aren't all that important to me. And I've learned that I can go without sleep...for a long time.
I've experienced the joy of seeing a child finally jump from the diving board, the thrill of hearing multiplication tables recited almost flawlessly. I've felt the ache of two diagnoses I didn't want to hear. I've heard the accolades of the kids' coaches and instructors and I've sometimes heard criticism. I've become tougher than I ever thought I could be and I cry easier than I ever did before.
Such is mother love.
I've found a renewed love for a children's Bible story book. I've found new meaning in church cradle roll songs. I've been refreshed again with simple faith, childlike faith. I've shared the gospel with my children, and they have taught me to walk it.
This is mother love.
I've looked for the best children's books, gone through monoliths of spelling lists, read educational theory and enrolled kids in schools public, private and home. I've bought crates of curriculum, cartons of crayons and cases of flash cards. And I found that character is the most important education of all.
Because when I have worked myself out of this hands-on mothering job in a few years, when the laundry is under control and the drawers in the refrigerator stay clean, it will be the character infused into the hearts of these babies that will be my legacy. I pray that beyond being great spellers, they will be men and women of integrity. I hope that whether they ever consistently learn to make their beds, they will endure in honesty. I pray that beyond the niceties and chores and handwriting and hobbies, they will be adults who traffic in powerful habits and vision. I pray they will be people of character.
Because that gift of character will be the imprint of my mother love.
I love special occasions, especially my kids' birthdays. In the past, I've always done it up big.
I mean BIG.
As in, for example, 1 of 8's 5th birthday. Theme? Pocahontas. Cake and cupcakes? Decorated to be sunflowers. Attendees? 15 five year olds. I turned the house into a veritable New England forest and sewed matching Native American costumes for 1 and 2 of 8 and had all the guests come as characters from the Disney movie.
That was a lot of fun. And a lot of work.
Fast foward seventeen years and I give you The OctaTwins Microwave Birthday Party.
The whole family was available on their actual birthday from 3:45 to 4:15 in the afternoon before several of us had to scatter for work commitments. So we gathered, sang, blew candles, ripped opened presents and hugged and kissed.
We had a little neighborhood party the next night, cooked out burgers and blew through cases of juice boxes. Just three friends, a little more cake and a minimum of party chaos.
It's the way of the OctaParty these last few years. And I usually walk away feeling a little guilty, like I coulda, shoulda, woulda done so much more.
And I suppose time will tell if the kids think it was enough or not.
But I do know that what is most important does happen on the kids' birthday. We celebrate them. We express gratitude and we eat too much cake and we let the wrapping paper float around the living room like confetti.
And the energy seems to go more into having time together, laughing and talking. It makes these celebrations fun, not draining. Because honestly, at this point, if I tried to pull off the great Pocahontas Gala of 1995, it would probably take me a week to recover.
Quickly heading toward his sixteen birthday this fall.
He's excited about it...
And he's looking into some options for next school year. He's been the oldest male student at the Octamom Homeschool Academy, home of the Mighty Fighting Ocelots...
But he's thinking he might want to try something new. And so he's doing some research and looking into attending our local public high school in the fall. Somehow, his brief career at Rainbow Preschool just doesn't cut it for him when he thinks about what a more typical classroom experience would be.
Because we homeschool, we get the 'socialization' question. A lot. A.Lot.
I understand. I do. I know it can be hard for folks who haven't homeschooled to see all the options our kids have had for friendship and social outlet.
Because several of the other kids dance many, many hours a week, their primary social groups are through the dance studio experience. And for the kids who haven't been into dance, those connections have come through soccer, youth group and neighborhood friendships.
But 3 of 8 is thinking he might want to spread his wings a little further. Thinking. We haven't made the decision yet.
And it's part of the homeschool experience that is important, to always be evaluating what each child needs, what each child thinks, what each child may need to adjust.
I know some families who have homeschooled in the past who have placed their kids in private or public school after a while. Sometimes those parents tell me that they struggle with feeling like they 'failed' at the homeschool experience. But to me, at the end of the day, what all of it has always been about is doing right by these kids when it comes to their education. One-size-fits-all is simply not a truism. What works for one family doesn't work for another. You don't 'fail' at the homeschool experience, or the private school experience, or the public school experience.
You simply listen.
And make adaptations and choices.
So we're listening. He's listening.
We'll see where we land over the next few weeks.
But I do know this. I sure have enjoyed having him school at home with me. 'Cuz I like this guy.
(props to 4 of 8...she took all these awesome shots. Baby Girl's got camera skills...)
I took advantage of the twins' family birthday party to snap some shots of 7 of 8 and her 'other twin'. And since I'm still obsessed and thankful and so so so glad for PicMonkey's appearance on the online photo editing scene, I thought I'd play with the shot a little and show you some recipes.
There is a fun effect on PicMonkeycalled Cross Process that beautifully wrecks your carefully color calibrated photos. I took this one through the 'green filter' for my green-eyed girls...
I was recently at an art show in Southlake, Texas. One of the featured artists there used his photography and several editing techniques to transform his pictures into fascinating art pieces printed to canvas. I'm going to circle back to some of the photo work I did in Paris last summer and play with the HDR filters and softening techniques. I made some edits to 1 and 7 of 8's picture and think the way the HDR filter plays up some details is really interesting...
And, of course, I always have a soft spot for letterbox borders and cinerama effects...
Another fun effect to play with is 'Daguerrotype' with several options and variations...
Wonder if the other kids would resent it if I printed all these options out in glossy 8x10s and framed 'em up all over one wall.....